Spymonkey's Love In

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Like love itself, the latest show from Knockabout comedy mainstays Spymonkey can be uplifting and joyous – but also frustrating when it doesn’t quite fulfil your expectations.

Love In – their sixth show, and first since 2009’s Moby Dick – doesn’t have the narrative of some of their previous work, instead comprising a loose connection of tenuously connected sketches.

There is a hint of ice-cool Sixties sensibility to it, as if an episode of The Saint could break out at any moment, and not just because of their matching white polo-necks they wear as they placidly intone soothing aphorisms of love.

Such clinical New-Age nonsense is the thread that runs through the show, nominally set around Tony And Amanda’s Love-In Institution, though how some of the scenes hold any connection to this premise remains unexplained, as if it matters. But the fragmented nature of the show exposes an unevenness in quality, with moments of inspired silliness tempered by scenes of more middling standards.

For example, the vivid, ultraviolet undersea world they create is visually powerful, but not particularly funny, but that has to be set against the many highlights, such as the sight of a grown man scooting around in Heelys, a feral Mother Theresa avariciously scooping up the needy, and a Joan of Arc stake-burning that culminates in the full-frontal nudity this talented quartet have become known for. And a routine in which well-choreographed City gents seductively feed a glamorous sex kitten with brilliantly silly consequences, is a certified slice of genius.

She is played by Petra Massey, one of the finest physical comedians we have, unafraid to throw her dignity on the bonfire of laughter, whether it means demonstrating her version of a Masai dance or goose-stepping like John Cleese as the inept backing dancing to a mentalist’s earnest routine. This is just one of two Cooperesque ‘bad magic’ skits, both performed to very different versions of the cheesy classic Windmills Of My Mind, where probably one would have sufficed.

Massey and the rest of the Brighton-based team excel in a certain graceful gracelessness, in which their physical talents are deliberately misplayed, in the same way Les Dawson might attack an upright, in order to create awkwardly silly moments.

And they all have their strengths: Spaniard Aitor Basauri is excellent as the oily lothario seducing an ice queen in a scene that becomes a farcical lust-fuelled three-way; Stephan Kreiss is impressively stern as the stereotypical German, complete with Dr Strangelove tics, whose attempts at laughter therapy are doomed to fail; while Toby Park is, ostensibly at least, the authority figure around whom mayhem swirls.

Despite its fine moments, Love In is all a bit of a jumble, despite the directorial hand of Tina C creator Christopher Green, meaning the total is less than the sum of its parts – not helped by a barely half-full Udderbelly depriving the show of a much-needed, up-for-it atmosphere. But even if the inconsistency means you don’t love it, you’ll probably like it.

Review date: 29 Jun 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Festival

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