To go from Berkoff’s Oedipus a mere year ago – and on the same Playhouse stage – to the absurdity of Spymonkey’s Oedipussy takes balls. As did Petra Massey’s walk out onto the stage starkers with only a huge cat head to hide her, um, embarrassment.
One suspects that Oedipussy would normally have been put on at the Everyman; a knockabout production destined to be reviewed with recourse to words such as ribald, risque and riotous.
And so it was – a fast-moving mix of physical comedy, excruciating word-play, song, dance and very meta breakings of the fourth wall. If you approach Oedpiussy with Berkoff’s production at the forefront of your mind you’re likely to stumble from the theatre at the interval clutching a copy of Greek! and weeping.
However, approach Spymonkey’s take on Sophocles with the same attitude as you would the rock’n’roll Christmas panto and you should enjoy yourself.
Framed by an amusing introduction to the play by the cast and Spymonkey players – and an outro that sees them apparently demoralised, knackered and plotting their escapes from the company – the production consistently played with form and detoured into slapstick, stand-up, monologues and impressive music.
The entire cast performed strongly – though any viewers sceptical of the ‘physical theatre’ genre will find elements hard to stomach. We found Aitor Basauri a particular delight with his asides to the audience; something of the Peter Sellers in his loveable clowning.
You will either love Oedipussy or you will hate it. Slightly against our expectations we loved it, though it does require the same level of suspension of sterner critical faculties to enjoy completely. That’s not to decry the immense skill on show – across a number of disciplines – nor the immense energy with which Spymonkey throw themselves into proceedings.
We entered into the Playhouse in a foul mood, with a tough day at work at behind us, kind of dreading two hours of theatre’s most (frequently) trying genre. But we left with a big stupid smile. Find that same sweet spot you locate for an annual visit to the panto and you will too.
Images by Johan Perrson