The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2018 – The Flop, 24th August 2018

FlopOne word – Spymonkey – quickly led me to the conclusion that I had to book for this show – and they’ve confirmed to me that they think it’s fun too! It’s the Hijinx production of The Flop at Main Hall @ Summerhall at 161:55 on Friday 24th. Here’s the blurb: “Paris. 1650-ish. Impotence is illegal. When a member of the aristocracy is accused of being less than upstanding, his wounded pride leads him towards a monumental and very public flop. But can a cast of total idiots save a show about a flop… from being one? The creators of Fringe 2016 hit Meet Fred team up with clown supremos Spymonkey to present an anarchic, slightly rude, hilarious slice of stupidity with live music and unfeasibly large wigs. ‘Sharp, funny and vastly entertaining’ (Lyn Gardner, Meet Fred). ‘The humour here is brilliantly black’ ***** (Herald, Meet Fred).”

This sounds absolutely hilarious, and I expect, very rude. I’m sure the Spymonkey magic will weave its way into this production to great effect. Check back around 6.15 pm to see how funny it was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

That was very good fun, with all the hallmarks of Spymonkey idiocy that you would expect. A very engaging cast throw themselves into it and there’s a nice degree of audience participation. My only slight quibble would be that the script itself could be a little tighter and funnier; the comic business was excellent but sometimes the lines weren’t quite up to it. Still, very enjoyable and silly!

Review – The Merry Wives of Windsor, Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 14th August 2018

The Merry Wives of WindsorAh, The Merry Wives of Windsor. The name sounds so innocent doesn’t it? Tea on the lawn at Runnymede. Happy jumble sales at Datchet. Street parties for the Queen down Windsor High Street. Well indeed, it was the Queen who wanted this in the first place, as the first scene of Fiona Laird’s new production at the RSC showed at first hand; a projection of Queen Elizabeth I querulously observing that her favourite Falstaff was being written out of Shakespeare’s next play, so she demands a new offering, showing Sir John in love, to be ready in two weeks. Much to Shakespeare’s chagrin.

FalstaffThe ever constant challenge to make new productions of Shakespeare plays modern and relevant is just as valid in the frothy comedies as it is in the heavyweights. But Merry Wives is a significant play in many ways and deserves treating seriously. It’s one of the few Shakespeare plays that is completely original. It is the only one to be written entirely in prose. It’s the only one to be concerned with middle-class life in a small English town; to that extent, it’s the most similar in structure to a modern-day sitcom. Not uniquely, but it’s one of the plays where the action is most driven by female characters; and where female characters win the day. It’s also a contender for being Shakespeare’s funniest play. No wonder it keeps coming around, again and again.

Evans, Pistol, Bardolph, NymThis is the 5th time I’ve seen the play; George Murcell as Falstaff at the now defunct St. George’s theatre in Tufnell Park in 1977; Peter Jeffrey in the RSC’s production at the Barbican in 1986; the Oxford Shakespeare Company’s productions in the grounds of Wadham College in 2005 and 2013; and now David Troughton as the randy big man with the RSC again in Stratford. Each one marvellous in their own way; and this latest production has more entertainment value than you can shake a stick at.

CaiusAnd that’s down to the engagement of one Mr Toby Park, boss of Spymonkey, as Physical Comedy Director. We’ve seen Spymonkey several times, with their endlessly creative, pomposity-puncturing, ridiculousness-worshipping productions; if you’ve never seen a Spymonkey production, You Haven’t Lived. There are elements of Spymonkey-business running through this show like a stick of rock. But does the double-directorship work, dovetailing the comic business with the rest of it? Or is it an Eton Mess? (See what I did there?)

Mistresses Ford and PageI usually agree with the old saying, less is more. Maybe it’s because of my innate conservatism (small C, please note.) Maybe it’s due to my Public School upbringing – you’re not meant to have fun. If it hurts, it’s doing you good. Or maybe it’s because I value quality over quantity, in virtually all matters. However, when it comes to Spymonkey, I change my mind. In this production they throw absolutely everything at it. From the disgusting wheelybin to the pink flamingos by the side of the Fords’ swimming pool, from the stagestruck golf cart to Falstaff’s extravagant codpiece, from Dr Caius’ frenchisisms to Master Brook’s false nose; no visual joke, no audio prompt, no quirky playing with the script goes unmissed. It’s a numbers game. The more funny business you put in, the funnier the end product comes out. I’d say a good 95% of the comic content sticks solidly like… well you provide your own simile. If the main intention of a production of Merry Wives is to make the audience laugh – and why would it be anything else – this is a five-star extravaganza.

Falstaff, QuicklyFiona Laird has picked this production up and moved it from west of the M25 to the east, to create a TOWIE version of the play – The Merry Wives of Billericay. The wise woman of Brentford has become the wise woman of Brentwood, which is somehow strangely funnier; Mistress Ford has her own beautician, which I’m sure isn’t in the original; the refuse guys who come to take away the lurid pink coloured wheelybin (belonging to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Essex) exchange jokes in Polish. Mistress Page hides behind a decadently large electric barbecue; Falstaff hides under a poolside lounger.

Caius, Shallow, Slender, Hostess, PageLez Brotherston’s fantastic costume designs enhance this Estuary Grandeur; Mistress Ford is genuinely stunning in her Versace trousers and tight-fitting top; the Hostess of the Garter is a vision in leopard skin; Pistol’s handbag (you read that right), Dr Caius’ bandana (ditto) and Fenton’s suitcase all reek of expense; and, above all, Master Ford and Master Slender are so trendy that they’ve given up on the socks. And the costumes and padding for Falstaff are genuinely hilarious and incredibly inventive; a quite remarkable achievement.

HostessI can’t decide whether the creative team encouraged the cast to portray their characters partly as impersonations, or whether it’s some natural, evolutionary by-product of the rehearsal procedure. But in any event it’s a delight to see Sybil Fawlty as Mistress Page, Julia Davis as Mistress Ford, Tracy Emin as the Hostess of the Garter, Ricky Gervais as Shallow, Del Boy Trotter as Master Ford, and my cousin Trevor as Slender. No offence, Trevor, but Tom Padley had you down to a T.

Mistresses Ford, Page and QuicklyThe performances are gleefully brilliant from first to last. David Troughton is just magnificent (and only barely recognisable) as Falstaff, completely self-obsessed and repulsive, so puffed up in his own affairs that duping him is like taking candy from a baby. Of course, when a character is so set up in a high and mighty fashion, it makes you deliriously happy to see them crash and scarper in shame. Rebecca Lacey’s Mistress Page, outwardly so respectable but in reality a truly tough nut, can’t wait to interfere in Falstaff’s plans and eggs Beth Cordingly’s sassy Mistress Ford into playing the tart for the fat knight. Together they are a perfectly mischievous pair, and make a great comedy duo.

EvansDavid Acton almost steals the show with his childishly excitable performance as Evans the Welsh parson, his face lit up with joy as he revels in every prank; encouraging us all to join him in a Cardiff Arms Park (his words) chorus of Cwm Rhondda. He’s also a great partner-in-crime for Jonathan Cullen’s Dr Caius, murdering the French language with fantastic ease, espousing all the Spymonkey tenets of making yourself look as ridiculous as possible. I’ve been an admirer of Mr Cullen since I first saw him perform in the First Year Students’ competition at Oxford, when I was in the second year. We always knew he’d go far.

Caius, RugbyTim Samuels is a beautifully mealy-mouthed (and violent) Shallow and Tom Padley simply hilarious as his gormless nephew Slender, constantly trying to cover up his incessant faux pas. Luke Newberry invests the otherwise worthy but dull Fenton with a string of brilliantly performed pratfalls, Josh Finan is an irrepressible Nym, Katy Brittain a superb lush of a Hostess at the Garter, Vince Leigh a fabulously jealous Ford and Paul Dodds a proper bossy Page. But the whole cast work together to make a really funny and entertaining ensemble show.

Anne PageAt the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you like the transferred location away from small town Berkshire to somewhere Chez Lakeside. I thought it worked fine. There are numerous liberties taken with the script, but if any Shakespeare play can take messing around with, it’s this one.

FordMrs Chrisparkle pointed out that in previous productions of Merry Wives that we’ve seen, Falstaff has been even more humiliated in that final horns and spirits scene. In this production, his shame is quickly achieved, and quickly over, which actually made a pleasant change – there’s only so far that you can humiliate one fat randy old knight. However, I sense something didn’t go quite right with that scene; there were a few spirits just hanging around doing nothing and blundering into each other. And the whole imagery of the ghosts and ghoulies is much scarier in its original location of a woodland glade than in a town centre piazza. Maybe it needs a little tightening up.

SimpleStill that’s a small quibble with such a great show. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I’m sure you would too. Can’t recommend it strongly enough. It’s in the RSC repertoire at Stratford until 22nd September and then it’s on at the Barbican from 7th December until 5th January 2019 – that would be a perfect Christmas treat!

Production photos by Manuel Harlan

Review – Spymonkey – The Complete Deaths, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 5th May 2016

Complete DeathsAnyone who’s familiar with the Spymonkey oeuvre will know just one thing in advance of this show; it will be anarchic. It will probably be surreal; very likely subversive; there may be nudity (or at least flashes thereof); there will almost certainly be clowning; it’s bound to break most of the rules of drama; and it will create a situation where a reviewer has no choice but to include no fewer than five semi-colons in a sentence.

Spymonkey pantsThis was our fourth exposure to Spymonkey. Initially I resisted their siren call, because I thought they sounded just too silly. But I was encouraged to check them out by Top Management at the Royal and Derngate (I know, get me) and they were right. The stylish nonsense of Oedipussy, the scurrilous chaos of Cooped (which I think remains my favourite), the wayward farce of Every Last Trick and now The Complete Deaths, where Toby and the team attempt to recreate all the deaths that happen onstage in the entire works of Shakespeare. No off-stage deaths though. Oh no. That’s very clear. Helping us to identify and appreciate each individual death, an LED banner at the top of the proscenium arch declares the name of each relevant play and victim in Brechtian splendour, whilst another LED counter counts down the number of deaths left to re-enact, the number steadily reducing with ghoulish inevitability. The four performances in Northampton are described as previews in advance of the show opening next week as part of the Brighton Festival. So I guess what we saw last night might not be quite the finished product? But I’ll just have to assume it is.

Spymonkey bloodYou enter the auditorium to the sight of four stand up microphones in a row, which led me to expect some form of Jersey Boys entertainment. (Actually, Spymonkey channelling their inner Frankie Vallis would be well worth a ticket). But that would have been at odds with the sight of Petra Massey and Stephan Kreiss taking turns playing at dead on the stage floor, whilst the other films a fly wandering and buzzing all over them. (It’s not a real fly. No flies were harmed during the making of this show, the programme promises us. If that’s the case, they managed to find at least one fly that well deserves its Equity card.) The fly acts as a metaphor for death and a symbol of mortality, throughout the show. That’s no doubt the brainwave of Spymonkey boss Toby Park, who sees, in this production, an opportunity for true artistic revelation, to pare down the overblown inadequacies of a theatre company known for mere slapstick, to challenge its overfed and overcosseted petit bourgeois audience into confronting the reality of life and death, to take the theatrical art to the highest level of achievement; in fact, to indulge in overwhelmingly up-himself self-important pomposity. And he does it so well.

CleopatraAs a stark contrast to the sheer dramatic integrity of Toby’s approach to the work, the other members of the company are not perhaps quite so artistically aspirational. Aitor wants to be a grand actor, Petra wants some financial security (and to play Ophelia – not allowed, she’s offstage when she dies), and Stephan just wants to play. And that’s the strength of this show – Toby going in one direction (arty, with a capital F), the others in the other. Things come to a crunch when Toby’s very future with the company is questioned, resulting in his spectacular hurt puppy-dog kicked in the nuts look. Still, he always has the graphic design to fall back on. I think I have his business card somewhere.

SpymonkeyAnd of course, there’s all the usual silly Spymonkey escapades to enjoy. Some of those interpretations of Shakespearean deaths are just brilliant. Aitor’s Romeo, getting his codpiece caught on the stepladder, as he lands on top of Petra’s Juliet had me in hysterics. The interminably and inappropriately jolly characters in Titus Andronicus, Petra’s interpretation of Thisbe as a bit of a scrubber, and the fabulously staged death of Hector in Troilus and Cressida by percussion tubing to Yazoo’s Only You, are all examples of their creatively inventive re-enactments. The pathos captured in the scene where Cinna the Poet is murdered was – literally – unreal. For Brutus’ death at the hands of Strato, Aitor seeks a member of the audience to join him on stage – so you have been warned. As it happens, George, who was Aitor’s assistant for the first night, had a brilliantly natural deadpan comic delivery and their double act worked a treat. There were many other remarkable, and hilarious, deaths but going into too much detail will only spoil it for you. Suffice to say that probably the crowning glory of the re-enactments was Petra’s tasteful and sensitive portrayal of the death of Cleopatra. Never has an asp had more fun. And even Shakespeare himself makes an appearance!

A very funny, probably unique evening of Shakespearean entertainment. I haven’t seen Mrs Chrisparkle laugh this much since the time I explained to her why I had been too busy to do the laundry. The company has such a wonderful sense of fun and that enviable total lack of inhibition that it is impossible not to love them. Once it has opened at Brighton Festival next week, the tour carries on throughout the country and Istanbul and Chicago, would you believe. No better stressbuster than to enjoy two middle-aged gentlemen in their underpants smearing each other with blood. A palpable hit. (Sorry, but it had to be said.)

Review – Every Last Trick, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 25th April 2014

Every Last TrickAmong the great names of theatrical comedy, Georges Feydeau is still worthy of a very high place. During a phenomenally successful career spanning more than thirty years he wrote 38 farces, not only popular in his native France but translated all over the world. They also lend themselves very well to modern adaptation, and I remember hooting with delight at Leonard Rossiter in 1977 when a schoolmate and I went to see “The Frontiers of Farce” at the Old Vic, the first act of which was Feydeau’s “On Purge Bébé”, concerning the plight of a manufacturer of unbreakable chamber pots – which broke; and in 1988 when the newly married Mrs Chrisparkle and I took our parents, again to the Old Vic, to see “A Flea in her Ear”.

The Whole CastMy memory of those shows is that they were standard revivals rather than re-workings. Many of Feydeau’s plays are good enough simply to translate them and get on with it. But that’s not the kind of thing one has come to expect from Spymonkey on their regular visits to the Royal and Derngate. They’re back – well half of them – and working with Told by an Idiot’s co-artistic director Paul Hunter, and two fresh but equally wacky cast members, on a modern re-telling of Feydeau’s Le Système Ribardier, sometimes translated as Every Trick in the Book, but here, in Tamsin Oglesby’s version, as “Every Last Trick”.

Toby Park and Adrien GygaxThe result is a brilliantly hilarious evening at the theatre, not quite in the usual Spymonkey tradition of an improvised, entirely original, surreal, abstract hotch-potch; but with a proper script, in a proper recognisable setting, and with proper characters. To give you a clue as to what goes on: Juan is Angela’s second husband, he a roué with a Spanish accent, she paranoid about the infidelity of men – Juan in particular – as her first husband, Jacques, had obviously put it about a bit. Juan is a member of the magic circle and has found a way of carrying on affairs behind Angela’s back – he hypnotises her every time he goes out and has his way with the wine merchant’s wife, then wakes her up on his return. Unless you know the magic words that will make her sleep and wake her up, you’ve got no clue as to how it happens. Hence the trick of the title. Into this deception stumbles Tom, who has carried a candle for Angela for many years, as he has heard that she is no longer married. But he didn’t realise she’d already married Juan, so, deeply disappointed, he prepares to head back to Burma/Borneo on his elephant. But, not so fast, they want him to stay – which he accepts, in the hope himself of a spot of hows-your-father with Angela, and by the time we’ve got to that stage of the plot, the only way out is completely nonsensical – not that there’d been much sense this far.

Aitor BasauriYou can’t understate the brilliance and comic inspiration of the team when it comes to creating ludicrously funny situations and following them through to their illogical conclusions. Whether they do it to music, or by involving the audience, or using ham magic, the lengths to which they will go knows no bounds. At least in this show they do manage to keep their kit on, which is not something you can always guarantee. It’s virtually impossible – and not very helpful – for me to attempt to explain some of the things they do; it’s much better if you go and see it for yourself and allow yourself to be stunned and marvelled at their ridiculous exploits.

Adrien GygaxI can tell you though that the cast of four are just superb throughout. Spymonkey boss Toby Park is Tom, arriving in England in his jungle outfit, hot off the elephant, the very embodiment of stiff upper lippishness, which means he can be both noble and a prat at the same time. Sophie Russell is wonderful as the paranoid and magically narcoleptic Angela; she’s also delightfully frightfully English, juxtaposing nicely with her tap dancing eccentricities and surprising tendency to bully the menfolk. Spymonkey’s Aitor Basauri is just sensational in his clowning, which can be deft and subtle, or outrageously overblown. He has the ability to render the audience helpless with laughter with just one twitch of an eyebrow, and he sets up such a brilliant rapport with us that you sense you know precisely what he’s thinking all the way through. I think he may have become my favourite comedy actor after this performance. The final member of the quartet is Adrien Gygax, who also gives a splendidly funny physical comedy performance as the dipsomaniac servant Gus. They all work together so well though, that the whole show is a complete team effort.

Toby ParkSpymonkey just get better and better each time you see them. Whether it’s the collaboration with Paul Hunter or the fact they’ve got a more tangible script to deal with, I don’t know; but I think this particular show has absolutely brought the best out of them all. They’re having so much fun out there themselves, that it really spreads to us in the audience. There were a large number of corpsing moments last Friday night – which in a production like this just adds to the general hilarity – and you’ve got absolutely no idea whether they’re intentional or not. That’s the magic of live theatre – no two performances are ever identical – and I would imagine that rule applies to this show more than most. It’s on at the Royal until 10th May – and if you like an evening of blissfully stupid comedy, you can’t go anywhere better.

Sophie RussellP.S. The programme alerts us to the fact that Spymonkey regular Stephan Kreiss is currently under the watch of heart surgeons, which Mrs C and I were very sorry to read. However, I have it on good authority that he is well on the mend and will be back with more lunacy soon. We wish him all the very best for a speedy recovery!

Review – Spymonkey’s Cooped, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 15th January 2013

CoopedWith happy memories of Spymonkey’s Oedipussy from last year, we naturally booked for this year’s production, Cooped, which is a remounting of the show that originally made the company’s name back in 2001. It’s described as “a deliciously demented take on the pulp gothic romance”, which is about as sensible a description as you can have for this totally wacky, anarchic, irreverent, very silly, very funny show.

Petra MasseyI guess if your sense of humour is geared more towards Rattigan or Coward, this probably isn’t for you. If you like something subversive and full of the unexpected, this more than fills the bill. It’s a sheer delight how they take a genre and then mock it mercilessly – and it doesn’t matter how familiar you are with their subject matter, because it seems to me all their shows contain a bit of everything. Cooped, for example, includes ghosts, a Eurovision-style pop song, a mischievous bishop and random wandering pheasants. With the old country house set and the shenanigans going on outside the leaded window, it actually put Mrs Chrisparkle in mind of the recent touring production of The Mousetrap, which is probably not a compliment to Miss Christie.

Stephan KreissTheir whole raison d’être is to make you laugh. There appears to be no end they won’t go to to achieve that aim. They will explore every tangent and every whim until it reaches the point of reductio ad absurdum, and it really works. They even subvert the set – with the window tricks, the steps off that clearly don’t go anywhere, the lift with its artificial flashing light. Their shows are not erudite comedies of which you will find yourself appreciating the finer points for weeks to come – they are slam dunk, in your face, happening now, laugh your socks off shows that live life to the full until curtain down.

Aitor BasauriOne can only wonder at the recruitment process at Spymonkey HQ. “So you want to join our band of merry men? The two chief elements in our Person Specification are 1) amazing clowning ability and 2) a complete lack of inhibitions”. There is some beautiful physical comedy in this show. Petra Massey’s ability to remain stiffly inanimate when she has collapsed and someone is trying to help her to her feet is extraordinary and leads to some hilarious moments. There’s also a wonderful scene where Stephan Kreiss’ face is being consistently bashed against a briefcase on the floor – such skilful clowning; as is his extremely active and rather disgusting tonguing of Miss Massey. As for inhibitions – look no further than the most unexpected and funniest ever use of nudity on a stage; never were figleaves more redundant. Acrobatic, ludicrous, brazen and totally gratuitous – and why not?

Toby ParkIt’s clear to see they’re all having fun on the stage – I doubt anyone could carry off this kind of performance if it was a chore. There was a marvellously teasing moment between Aitor Basauri’s Bishop of Northumberlandshirehampton and Toby Park’s Murdston based on the traditional kissing of the bishop’s ring, which was actually not as rude as it sounds. Their enthusiasm is deeply infectious, as the audience were loving every minute of it. It goes without saying that all four performers turned in brilliant performances.

The castThere were a couple of technical glitches in the first night performance we saw – sound volumes went wrong with the opening and closing of the window and a TV screen brought on during the performance of “Mr Sandman” (don’t ask) didn’t work. Given the number of sound and lighting cues they must have in the show it’s surprising there aren’t more errors. Mr Park’s “Jewish glasses” wouldn’t stay on his nose, to much amusement.

The programme promotes a couple of workshops that the company is running later this spring. I can only imagine that after two weeks’ working with them, you would be unrecognisable from the person you were before. Think of how much more confidence you would have!

A riotously funny evening, and one which we both agreed on the way home we could easily go back and see again. It’s on in Northampton till Saturday 19th January and then plays a few dates in Brighton and London in March. Go see it!

Photos of the Spymonkey team taken from their website, copyright Sean Dennie. I thought it was wise not to choose the naked ones!

Review – Oedipussy, Spymonkey, Royal & Derngate, Northampton, 15th February 2012

OedipussyIf you’re going to update a Greek tragedy, you might as well go the whole hog. Spymonkey’s latest production, born in Northampton and on the road until May, takes the mythical king from his youthful days in Corinth (“Corinth, Corinth”) to becoming the ruler of Thebes (“Thebes, Thebes”), making sure to include killing dad Laius at the crossroads, and marrying mum Jocasta, and encounters with Tiresias, the Sphinx, the Oracle, and the shepherds Lucky and Plucky (I think they made those names up.) You have to hand it to them – not only is it an evening of ludicrous comedy, they actually take you through the Oedipus story in quite a structured way. In all honesty you wouldn’t recommend it to the Fifth Form studying for exams, but I think Sophocles and Euripides would approve. No half hog here.

Apparently their inspiration for digging deep into serious legend came as a result of a bad review by Joyce McMillan – the name gets repeated a few times – in the Scotsman, of their show “Moby Dick”. It’s true – she really didn’t enjoy it. So I’d better be careful what I say lest I end up part of the introduction to their next show. It was the “bunch of middle-aged actors” line that really got Petra Massey’s goat – and I agree with her: if they really are the ages they say they are – and you get the feeling this is a company that would tell the truth – then I am older than all of them, and I’m still young, so there. If that review really was the kick up the backside they felt they needed – tongue in cheek no doubt – then jolly good show, because this is a very exuberant and entertaining experience, mixing Greek myth with James Bond and much more besides.

We’d actually seen the opening scene before – they performed it at the Royal and Derngate’s Subscription Launch – and it’s a wonderfully subversive and unusual way to open a show. By introducing you to the four actors, it cleverly gives you an initial insight into their characters and their roles within the company; and begins a link that runs throughout the evening of their coming out of character and engaging with the audience, as themselves, on whatever is playing on their mind. It’s quite a fun device for the actors to address the audience anyway – you feel you’re as much part of their evening as they are of yours – but it’s particularly rewarding when they’re talking about their fellow cast-members behind their back.

There’s no doubt at all that these four performers are naturally funny people, and, when you realise they have clown backgrounds, it all makes sense. I bet they could all do solo pieces that would fit perfectly in something like The Burlesque Show. They have a fluidity of movement, very expressive facial and eye movements, and above all, don’t give two hoots about how stupidly they are dressed (or not), which is handy in this production as most of the time they look like adverts for Tena. You get the feeling they are very brave performers who would go to the end of the world (stage-wise) if the art warranted it.

Petra MasseyI guess no one in this cast is braver than Petra Massey, who plays the Sphinx as half woman half cat but with a vital misinterpretation. Her chats with the audience were also amongst the most entertaining. When she suddenly breaks off and shares how the Oedipus story reflects her own life, it was very funny, and very believable, as was the way she went back into character. She also has a wonderful moment of comic business with what she does with a sheep sacrifice. Toby Park I also really liked Toby Park’s rather miserable soliloquy, lamenting his currently woeful job, knowing he’s capable of so much better than this, handing out his graphic and web design consultancy business cards at the end – which appear to be genuine – although he won’t get any work via his website as it requires a password to get in! He was also great as Tiberias, and as the Chorus whose hat looks like the icon for my spam folder.

Stephan KreissStephan Kreiss makes for a delightfully unhinged young Oedipus, let loose into the world and desperately seeking a shag, which you might get if you’re in the front row. As an older Oedipus he cuts a commanding figure – his lovey-dovey scenes with Jocasta are very funny and his tragic hero scenes are brilliantly over-the-top. Aitor BasauriAitor Basauri makes up the foursome, his physical appearance being especially unsuited to nappies. As Laius, his teaching Chrysippus how to wield a discus is scarily sensual. I also loved him alternating as Lucky and Plucky and his devotion to his sheep is inventively done.

Other highlights include his appearance as a singalong leper colony – really funny and so skilfully performed; the Oracle, whose eyes have something of Alice in Wonderland’s Pig Babies about them and the effective representation of blood and death. Jocasta’s was hilarious. I also loved the predictable but hilarious consequences of having headgear too large for the entrance door onto the stage. Simple ideas often work best.

If I have a criticism, it would be that, as a whole, it is so frothy, so cappuccino, so light in its touch, that actually, on the way home, there isn’t a lot to discuss. It’s very funny, end of. It’s also a Marmite production – I would say for every eight people laughing riotously, there were two sitting stony-faced. If you don’t get totally ridiculous comedy, I don’t think you’d like it. Mrs Chrisparkle adored it; I liked it a lot. This was our first Spymonkey experience; we’d definitely see them again and would recommend this show if you’re an aficionado of the ultra-daft.