by Don Evans.

Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR To 9 February.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 4pm & 30 Jan, 6 Feb 2pm.
TICKETS 020 7328 1000.

then Tour to 16 March 2013.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Carole Woddis 17 January.

Production overloading play.
Soaps and canned laughter. Dawn Walton’s production of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show sits somewhere between the canned laughter of TV sit-com and a good old soap where the message is in the medium: laughter and tears and no shortage of conflict.

Actually, Don Evans – a contemporary of black American August Wilson but mostly unknown here – trades in the clash of Black aspiration and how it displays itself in American society, in this case, 1970s Philadelphia.

To that extent, it’s like a cross between aspects of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park and a touch of George C Wolfe’s The Colored Museum – at once a satire and comedy of manners. There’s even a momma who runs Mrs Malaprop close for mistaking words, “pervert” for “pervert” one of her favourites.

Walton however sets the whole thing within the framework of an American sitcom of popular 1980s TV hit The Cosby Show variety.

A large `On Air’ sign adorns the back wall and characters are introduced to canned gales of applause. An array of stereotypes, ranging from a preacher, his prudish wife, preppy son and hilly-billy niece up from the Deep South to open-shirted, bling wearing club owning Caleb and a sassy woman-of-the-world hairdresser.

The problem is that despite this ingenious framing device, the tone isn’t consistent enough. One moment we’re being asked to laugh at 50-something Avery, the preacher, suddenly regaining his sexual mojo, the next to be moved by club-owning Caleb’s amorous `conversion’ by Rebecca Scroggs’ admittedly delightful, pig-tailed and dungaree-touting Beverley. Is it soap or sitcom? This production never makes it clear enough.

Still Evans gets across some useful points about hypocrisy, class, sexual mores and female emancipation through some pretty broad comic strokes – Jacqueline Boatswain’s larger than life hairdresser, Mozelle being one of them – and generally from a cast not afraid to `act up big’.

All the same, it seems a strange choice by Walton of a play and style perhaps more suited to American than British audiences though judging by its press night reception audiences went away happy enough.

Myra: Jocelyn Jee Esien.
Avery: Karl Collins.
Felix: Isaac Ssebandeke.
Caleb: Clifford Samuel.
Beverley: Rebecca Scroggs.
L’il Bits: Rochelle Rose.
Mozelle/Mrs Caldwell: Jacqueline Boatswain.

Director: Dawn Walton.
Designer: Libby Watson.
Lighting: Natasha Chivers.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Dialect coach: Richard Ryder.
Assistant director: Alex Thorpe.

One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show received its UK premiere in a co-production between Eclipse Theatre Company and Sheffield Theatres in October 2011.

2013-01-19 01:40:25

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