YOU can always expect the unexpected from Fringe favourites, Spymonkey, and the opening night at the world premiere of their new production at the Royal & Derngate proved no different.
It was courageous, blindly stupid or sheer arrogance to open Oedipussy by delivering, to an invited audience which included theatre critics, a stinging rebuke about an unfavourable review.
But my colleague Joyce Mulligan, of The Scotsman, can sleep soundly in her bed knowing that her comments about the show, real or totally scripted, set the pattern for a wickedly inventive and outrageously comic production that reduced the auditorium to convulsive laughter from the opening few seconds until the curtain fell.
And Aardman may have been barracked by charities for initially putting leper gags in its new animated film but this production included a sublimely funny song about an invasion of singing lepers that brought the house down. Politically incorrect it may have been but it had me with the opening few bars.
Spymonkey, who had a huge success at the R & D last year with their own inimitable take on the story of Moby Dick, have come up with a truly unique and original way of turning a Greek tragedy into a riotous and very physical comedy.
The cast of four began by coming out and telling the audience that they had been stung by Joyce’s unkind barbs but that her theatre review had only served to make them up their game.
It’s unbelievable to think they could be any funnier. There were moments of Pythonesque brilliance from Spaniard Aitor Basauri, German Stephan Kreiss, the daring Petra Massey (whose moment of full frontal nudity was shocking and unexpected) and Toby Park.
Oedipussy is the very rough retelling of how a young boy, Oedipus, torn from his mother’s arms as a babe, returns as a man and fulfils a prophecy that sees him unwittingly kill his father and marry his mother.
Each actor performs a variety of roles in a succession of bizarre costumes while utilising a very clever set that acts as wardrobe, scaffold and podium. In-between the drama each actor takes time out to address the audience in a series of monologues which only add to the hilarity.
The foursome spends most of the performance wearing state-of-the-art nappies – although Petra did look Barbarella-stunning in a skin-tight gold cat-suit for her role as the mother, Jocasta.
Basauri, who appears in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new film The Dictator, is a natural clown who simply has to fix a member of the audience with a glint of his eye to have them giggling. Kreiss plays Oedipus (17 going on 49) with limited success and looks less at ease with the craziness that unfolds.
The production is mostly fronted by Park who is the company’s managing artistic director, composer and lead performer and, for Oedipussy, takes the role of narrator.
It is hysterically funny, subversive and brilliantly performed by a very talented cast…and that’s one comment I’d be delighted for them to use.
Running on the Royal stage until February 18. For tickets call the box office 01604 624811 or go online www.royalandderngate.co.uk.