I have just come across the work of a theatre company called Spymonkey. Founded in 1997, it is a pan-european outfit with performers from Spain, Germany and England and, according to the Boston Herald, they produce a
dark, edgy physical comedy rooted ‘somewhere between Monty Python, the Marx Brothers and Samuel Beckett.
They are clearly an international success as their tour schedule shows. Their current piece is called Oedipussy, an irreverent take on the Sophocles classic, Oedipus Rex. Now this just happens to be one of my favourite Greek plays – I am, in fact, a great fan of ancient Greek theatre – and it normally features in my teaching of exam years at some point. I love telling the narrative to my students and waiting for the wails of disbelief/disgust to start, once things begin to unravel for Oedipus and they, my students, realise what is going to happen next. Playing with Greek Chorus is a great way into teaching/learning about ensemble technique. If you don’t know the play, or much about Greek theatre in general, there is an exhaustive work-pack here, from the National Theatre of Great Britain.
For me, the great thing about Greek Tragedy is the epic nature of the tales and sheer breadth of humanity’s (and the Gods’) frailties laid bare. But I have always thought they were just a stone’s throw away from being riotously funny too, and it would seem that this is what Spymonkey has done with their version. Indeed, one critic commented that there is a brilliant moment at the end of Spymonkey’s spoof, an evening which proves that in every tragedy there is a comedy trying to get out. Another commented that some people will never “get” Spymonkey: their loss. This is not just inventive comedy but an affirmation of all human weakness…
Take a look at this taster for the piece. I should warn you though that sight of grown men wearing nappies/diapers is a tad disturbing.
Finally I have been looking for a reason to post this photograph, trawled from Twitter. It amused me immensely: