by Carl Grose and the Company music by Neil Philby and Toby Park.
Royal & Derngate (Royal auditorium) To 18 February.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
then tour to 16 May 2012.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 February.
Like the Royal’s recent panto, silly but not stupid, ad with serious points along the way.
In her fascinating lecture-performance On the Fringe, Cindy Oswin described her great leap forward in the mid-sixties by moving from Midlands rep, where the actor was supposed to be submerged within a role, and the London Fringe, where new work often involved the actor’s self, and experience.
It still can – though the idea’s developed complexity and revelations are as likely to be fiction made to look like fact. To some extent. Or – well, you never know. Of two pieces I’ve encountered this week, one is largely direct in transcribing actual experience, the other – Spymonkey’s Oedipussy – more likely to be faux naïf than factual.
The performers enter in sober dressing and sit at a table, as if about to be interviewed for jobs – or a funding grant. Then, with believe-me earnestness they read from the critical drubbing meted to them by Scotland’s foremost theatre critic for their last show Moby Dick. They determine to do better this time.
They have, hiring South-West England’s finest theatre director Emma Rice, of Theatre Alibi and Kneehigh. Rice, like Kneehigh overall, is expert at creating dead seriousness amid theatrical elaboration. If anyone can fake sincerity, it’s her, and it’s them.
This is far from a criticism – it’s a version of Shakespeare’s “by indirections find directions out” or “the truest poetry is the most feigning”. And Spymonkey’s Oedipussy while full of groundling-delighting theatrical crudity – is immeasurably superior to their Dick (crudity-wise they show definite sexual equality). And part of the fun is each actor’s persona.
Amid such fun dart sudden pointed revelations. Sophocles’ Oedipus gradually reveals how Oedipus unknowingly killed dad and married mum; Oedipussy shows his father Laius to have been, literally, a violent bugger, fitting the story within a trail of retribution matching fellow-tragedian Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy.
Eras collapse as Oswin-like moments of self-revelation occur for each performer. What the Greeks discovered, or first wrote into history, was fundamental stuff that still informs human life. Alongside the fun clambering over or lumbering around Michael Vale’s distant-child-of-Greek-columns set, and set amongst the more-or-less funny jokes, something serious is being said in a quirkily telling fashion.
Performers: Aitor Basauri, Stephen Kreiss, Petrra Massey, Toby Park.
Director: Emma Rice.
Designer: Michael Vale.
Lighting: Phil Supple.
Sound: Simon Baker.
Costume: Lucy Bradridge.