Spymonkey Cooped

Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Let Me Help You Up, Spymonkey founder members Petra Massey and Toby Park

Marking this international physical theatre company’s 20thanniversary, Spymonkey has resurrected their original gothic romance murder mystery drama, Cooped.

It’s fair to say they have been getting away with murder for most of those 20 years!

Their brand of clowning comedy sets them quite apart, yet honours a peculiarly English thread of entertainment, all the way from circus, via silent comedy, farce and slapstick, to any number of post-war variety theatre entertainers. This is fun without all the normal filters.

It doesn’t always work, but when it does—as so often here—it can be a joyful guilty pleasure. Leave all standard critical judgment at the eternally creaking doors, centre stage.

Through them emerges a set of stereotypical characters, but any plot quickly unravels, amidst dancing pheasants, a trio of monks, yodelling folk quartet and a giant dinosaur.

Even the explicit warning that this show Contains Full Nudity cannot quite prepare you for the uproarious end of the first act. There are scenes here you may never be able to unsee...

Elsewhere, the Let Me Help You Up routine, involving Spymonkey founder members Petra Massey and Toby Park, is a classic of corporeal comedy. Other bodily functions are not quite so appealing. Fellow founder member Aitor Basauri, a ‘once-famous Spanish soap star’, and Stephan Kreiss, ‘a giant of German expressionist theatre’, complete the cast.

It’s all been masterminded by Cal McCrystal, the go-to director for any form of physical comedy, and every credit to all concerned that they can still make it all feel so fresh and amusing after so many years, especially in front of a woefully-small audience on opening night.

If easily offended steer clear; if easily amused, form an orderly queue.

Reviewer: David Upton

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