TOP QUALITY NONSENSE
Light as a feather, puffy and sweet as a puffed meringue, this is where complete nonsense meets consummate skill. Not surprising: it is an adaptation of an 1892 Feydeau farce, therefore nonsense; the skill is unsurprising given that half the cast – Aitor Basauri and Toby Park – are usually seen as half of the matchless clowning troupe Skymonkey, and that the director is Paul Hunter of Told by an Idiot.
With a pedigree like that, you don’t turn up expecting Ibsen. Though Tamsin Ogleby’s adaptation does manage, bizarrely, to refer to him as author of a fictional am-dram play called The Fire Exit. She also adapts Shylock’s speech in The Merchant of Venice, insouciantly awarding it to the heroine (Sophie Russell) as an unexpected feminist rant at her husband. It’s all barmy panto-farcical nonsense: and unless you are in a particularly foul and unforgiving mood, is very engaging. Take your inner teenager, or a gang of outer ones. Have a roaring night out. Tickets go right down to a tenner. You know you want to…
The skeleton of Feydeau’s story is that Juan (Basauri) is a conjurer whose wife (Russell) thinks he is unfaithful, because her last husband was. Actually, of course, he is. His tactic is to hypnotize her so she remains asleep while he visits his mistress. Sheis accidentally woken and wooed by an old flame just back from Borneo in a safari-suit (Park) . I think that the sound-effect of his faithful elephant in the garden is a post-Feydeau innovation, one of many. More typical is a drunken butler (Adrien Gygax, also physically superb) who steals the booze and gets wrongly accused.
It isn’t the most intricate of farces, and at times one could almost do without the Feydeau tale and wish that the more surreal Spymonkey spirit ruled all (as it does in their own COOPED ) or that there was a story of more purport (as in their OEDIPUSSY, at this same theatre a while back). But the joy, which is considerable, is in Park’s spoofy 1920‘s numbers, Lucy Bradridge’s hilarious design features (what is this trapdoor? Oh, look, a dancing grasshopper) and the utter brilliance of the physical jokes: entry through a chair or down a curtain, the French-window gag, the candle gag, the insane fights (Spymonkey have always been masters of indignity and princes of the pratfall) , and a visual joke involving a rabbit which I shall never, ever forget.
Oh, and there’s Basauri’s divinely silly demonstration of sawing a man in half , conducted in his marvellous cod Spanish accent. Which is, in fact, pretty much his real accent, seeing that he’s Spanish.
Box Office 01604 624811 http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk. to 10 May