22nd – 26th May 2019
Celebrating their 20th anniversary as ‘the reigning monarchs of physical comedy’, Spymonkey are performing one of their favourite shows as part of the Brighton Festival this year. ‘Cooped’ is a parody of the gothic genre, in a Monty Python, Carry-On, Pink Panther-style performance of physical comedy, with intentionally cheap-looking sets, song-and-dance numbers, and spurned characters who break role and communicate their frustrations to the audience.
In darkest Northumberlandshirehampton, beautiful dolly-bird Laura Du Lay (Petra Massey) arrives at the isolated gothic mansion where she is to begin her employment, digging into the family history of the mysterious and suave Forbes Murdston (Toby Park). It is here that she meets a variety of characters played by Aitor Basauri, hilariously determined that everyone remember he was once famous in a Spanish telenovela, and Klaus, the butler (Stephan Kreiss) with a passion for German expressionist theatre and a great hatred for Basauri’s character. From here on, we see mysterious figures, unnerving nightmares, and mysterious clues as to Murdston’s family history.
Spymonkey’s physical comedy skills are absolutely flawless, with a key joke of the evening being Laura Du Lay’s tendency to pass out and become completely rigid, with the other characters attempting to set her back on her feet while in this state. Massey’s ability to appear simultaneously as solid as concrete, and as light as a feather, made for some truly hilarious scenes. Coupling this physical comedy with remote controlled pheasants, stairs that lead to nowhere, and characters ‘accidentally’ displaying incomplete props through the window, made for a truly unique performance of a very adult pantomime. The “fourth wall” is well and truly broken during the performance, as the actors respond to the audience’s reactions, and at one point claim “well, I can’t do it with you all looking at me!”
With a distinctive comedy style, ‘Cooped’ is not for the faint of heart. The show is recommended as unsuitable for children, and it was clear to see why during scenes of adult humour (read: fully-nude male ballet). These scenes did, however, have the audience roaring with laughter, particularly when Massey’s character bursts in on the scene, apparently having felt left out and wishing to join in.
With nods to gothic film and literature throughout, perfectly-timed humour, and plenty of surprises along the way, it is no wonder that after 20 years, Spymonkey are still considered the UK’s leading physical comedy company.
Spy monkey: Cooped is showing from Wednesday 22nd May – Sunday 26th May, at Worthing Pavilion and Brighton Festival.
Reviewer: Hannah Todd