Spymonkey relaunch their Complete Deaths show. ReviewsGate’s Ian Spiby has a very different view of the show from Alexander Ray Edser who reviewed it on tour – here 6 October
Northamnpton and Tour
Spymonkey. The Complete Deaths
Adapted and directed by Tim Crouch
Royal and Derogate
19-21 Guildhall Road
Runs: 2 hrs 25mins. 20 min interval
Box Office: 01604 624811
Review by: Ian Spiby. Perf seen October 17, 2016:
They want to disturb rather than please
In the programme to Spymonkey’s The Complete Deaths, Tim Crouch the adaptor and director says that the idea came from Belgium’s festival director, Frie Leysen who said last year that art’s role should not be to please but to disturb. In this production he will use the ideology of postmodernism to achieve this end by examining the 75 deaths that occur in the 37 plays of Shakespeare. So far, so last century.
In case we hadn’t read the programme, we are left in no doubt of his purpose at the start of the show because we as an audience are subjected to a harangue by one of the performers. We are told that we are bourgeois, self-satisfied, complacent and middle class who decide in a feckless, dilettante way to come to the ROYAL theatre to sit in a comfortable ROYAL seat and be treated to a ROYAL pleasing experience. That, he assures us, is not going to happen. And so the play proceeds.
It is technology heavy: much use is made of a video camera projecting close-ups onto a huge screen, the seventy five deaths are counted down on a large digital clock at the side of the stage while high above, a screen shows us which character from which play is being killed at any particular time
The DISTURBING thing for me was the ineptness of the performances. We have here, (because I’ve seen them before) highly-skilled virtuosic physical comedians but instead of utilizing their virtuosity, they were made to run about, hitting one another and generally behaving at the skill-level of first-year drama students engaged in comedy improvisation. The only difference was that Spymonkey had more money to spend on costumes and technology. So, in a way, they achieved their aim: I was NOT pleased and I WAS disturbed, but I suspect not in the way that the director envisaged.
Looking round at the half-empty auditorium at the Royal and Derngate, it occurred to me that rather than listen to Frie Leyson, Spymonkey could well heed the words of Dr Johnson, who wrote the following lines for the renowned actor David Garrick to speak:
The Drama’s laws the Drama’s Patrons give,
For we who live to please must please to live.
Spymonkey: The Complete Deaths
Adapted and Directed by Tim Crouch
Director: Tim Crouch
Designer: Lucy Bradridge
Music composed and recorded by Toby Park
Lighting Design by Phil Supple
Video Design and Bard: Sam Bailey
Assistant Director Lucy Skilbeck
Choreography: Theo Clinkard and Janine Fletcher
Produced by Emily Coleman