Cooped is something akin to the best bad am-dram theatre production you’ve ever seen.
It is a farcical gothic romance, pitched as ‘Hitchcock’s Rebecca meets The Pink Panther’ and performed with the kind of knockabout silliness that looks spontaneous only because of the huge skill of its four-strong cast. It is not for the faint-hearted – there is no stinting on the full-frontal nudity, although it is of the ludicrous rather than lurid kind – and nor is it for those who like their plots taught and twisting.
Cooped was Spymonkey’s breakthrough show, first performed in 2001, and has been revived to cerebrate the company’s 20th anniversary at the forefront of physical comedy. It sees naive but flatulent young orphan Laura du Lay (played in show-stealing fashion by joint artistic director Petra Massey) arrive at a spooky, isolated mansion in deepest Northumberlandshirehampton. Who is her mysterious benefactor? Is the devastatingly handsome Forbes Murdston an evil cad or her white knight? Should she fear the gurning butler, Klaus? Nobody knows. And on opening night in Liverpool, amid slapstick dream sequences of gibbering monks and a Virgin Mary jerkily levitating on substandard wires, nobody really cared.
Most of the audience and, at times, some of the cast were too busy chuckling at master clown Aitor Basauri’s errant toupee in his role as Murdston’s lawyer, Roger Parchment, or the daft hilarity of his hapless Inspector Detective Judadench’s name sounding like that of a certain acting legend. Directed by Cal McCrystal, who among other things was in charge of comedy for the National Theatre’s smash hit One Man, Two Guv’nors, the four actors threw themselves bodily into the mayhem. Massey was tossed around like an overly-glamorous rag doll; Basauri and Stephan Kriess left little to the imagination during a ludicrous pastoral dance and Toby Park hammed it up magnificently as Murdston. There is no subtlety here, no sub-plot or nuance. Instead there are incontinent mechanical partridges and genuine belly laughs of the kind that are rare in the theatre. It takes great cleverness to be appear this stupid.
Spymonkey Cooped is at the Playhouse, Liverpool until 8th June and on tour. For more information, click here.