If only all Greek mythology had been taught this way. Then maybe a classical education wouldn’t be so derided in these days of fashionable ignorance.
Spymonkey, the country’s leading purveyors of comic physicality and general silliness, have plundered Sophocles for their latest production, put together under the Royal & Derngate’s Made in Northampton banner and with Kneehigh Theatre’s Emma Rice at the directorial tiller.
So much for the pedigree. What about the show? Well, it has all the hallmarks of vintage Spymonkey, complete with clowning, high farce, daft props, gags and spurious nudity.
The clowning is, as always with this extraordinarily talented troupe, timed to perfection. The high farce is generally impeccable and washes in waves across the footlights so that it’s sometimes hard to catch your breath between laughs.
The props are wonderfully cheap and amateurish, the gags often similarly so, while the spurious nudity is… well, spurious. But also hilarious.
The four performers – Petra Massey, Toby Park, Aitur Basauri and Stephan Kreiss – wring every last drop of comedy from their material, and then throw in a heap of additional laughs besides, using everything from rubber catsuits to a baritone saxophone in the process.
There is a vague sense that it’s all a bit more hit-and-miss than earlier Spymonkey shows such as Cooped or Moby Dick, but this is a world premiere, and the piece runs at such a frenetic, relentless pace and is so meticulously choreographed that it might just need a little time to settle into itself.
Certainly, the vicious swipes at previously less-than-enthusiastic theatre critics make one extremely nervous about picking too many holes. Fortunately for all concerned, there simply aren’t too many holes to pick. If you like your comedy fast, funny and, frankly, naked, you could do a lot worse than jump on this rollercoaster ride to ancient Greece.