by Tamsin Oglesby based on Georges Feydeau’s Le Système Ribadier in a literal translation by Sam Alexander.

Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 10 May 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 7 May, 8 May 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 8 May 7.45pm.
Captioned 6 May.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.

TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 April.

Every trick indeed in evening of physical theatre fun.
At Lick’s new yogurt shop in Northampton’s foyers only banana flavour remained – suitably enough, given the madcap relentlessness of Tamsin Oglesby’s reinvention and Paul (Told By An Idiot) Hunter’s direction of this Spymonkey production at the Royal.

It started out as Le Système Ribadier, an 1892 frolic about marital infidelity by Georges Feydeau and collaborator Maurice Hennequin. The distinguishing element, among Feydeau’s other infidelity-based plots, is husband Ribadier’s ability to hypnotise his wife when escaping for extra-marital dalliance.

Now called Juan, for reasons possibly more connected to performer than character, he is self-proclaimed (though no-one denies it) Spanish Ambassador in 1920s England (where Oglesby lays her scene). His amateur magicking is his excuse to lope-off and meet his mistress, whose husband eventually (and literally) descends in pursuit of his wife’s unidentified lover.

Which is not the same person as Juan’s wife’s lover, also greeted as his long-lost best friend when he arrives from exotic climes with an elephant. This beast remains in the garden, largely unseen but making occasional, visible trunk calls. And the family servant’s an alcoholic, who can’t raise an illicit glass without a couple of musicians appearing to accompany his quaffing.

All this is funny only if the cast takes it seriously, so they ensure there is no scintilla of a glimpse of a momentary recognition it’s all a huge joke. Sophie Russell proclaims Angela’s triumph at discovering, then utilising, Juan’s hypnotic method, while Adrien Gygax contrasts the beanpole-like Gus with a well-padded Savinet, in pursuit of bottle and wife respectively.

And Toby Park gives a smart performance as Juan’s wife’s bit on the side, with neat excuses suggesting Tom’s showbiz speciality might be escapology. At the centre Aitor Basauri’s Juan, repeatedly losing then regaining his wig, is a model of Hispanic temperament, serious to the emotionally intense core and hilarious therefore.

How hilarious it all seems depends on your sense of humour. Either it’s convulsingly cram-full of hilarity, or frustratingly unable to get on with anything before gagging it half-to-death. It’s certainly physically inventive; beyond that, it’s a matter of how bananas you are.

Juan: Aitor Basauri.
Gus/Savinet: Adrien Gygax.
Tom: Toby Park.
Angela: Sophie Russell.

Director: Paul Hunter.
Designer: Lucy Bradbridge.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Composer/Musical Director: Toby Park.
Choreographers: Georgina Lamb, Sophie Russell.
Assistant director: Ian Nicholson.

2014-04-25 12:17:03

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