Spymonkey’s Moby Dick

Anyoneunfamiliar with the extraordinarily silly, marvellously anarchic talents of the Spymonkey troupe cannot hope to get a true picture of their genius from a few hundred words of type.

Trying to describe their productions is like stuffing a thimble with elastic bands: there’s so much extraneous flummery and uncontainable wriggliness that you can’t quite pin it down into words.

Thus the latest offering from the four-piece physical theatre experts, an adaptation of the Herman Melville classic Moby Dick, defies logical description, reducing any attempt at categorisation or synopsis to a meaningless exercise.

The truth is that there is no substitute for seeing this wonderful creation in the flesh. It’s not until you’re exposed to the relentless onslaught of hysterical gags – visual and verbal – or the sublime absurdity of the storytelling (and yes, Melville’s original tale somehow survives the experience) that you can quite grasp just what an exceptional collection of skills and smartness is on display.

Performers Aitor Basauri, Stephan Kreiss, Petra Massey and Toby Park have teamed up with director Jos Houben and associate Rob Thirtle to create a non-stop rollercoaster of utter silliness, using every tool at their disposal. There’s witty wordplay, pure slapstick, high camp and audience participation. There’s a singing ship’s figurehead bemoaning her lack of sexual organs, a hammy ultraviolet underwater sequence worthy of any amateur panto, and a great white whale whose final confrontation with the obsessed Captain Ahab provides a glorious climax to the daftness.

Last seen at the Royal and Derngate in their Gothic romp Cooped, Spymonkey have now officially teamed up with the venue for this co-production, which goes on a national tour after its stay in the Royal auditorium.

Word of mouth on Cooped rendered it a huge hit by the end of its run. If you take my advice, you won’t wait for the word to get round on this one.

– Michael Davies