Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Absurd, farcical, surreal, anarchic and sometimes all four at the same time, this is a glorious romp in tights and wigs from start to finish.
It’s tempting fate to call your cherished piece of innuendo laden, devised theatre that addresses the tender subject of male impotence The Flop and then invite seasoned and cynical theatre critics along to review it. But the one thing that sticks out (pun intended) in this collaboration between Spymonkey (a physical theatre comedy ensemble based in Brighton) and Hijinx (a Welsh company specialising in inclusive, contemporary theatre), is the energy and sheer enjoyment the cast get out of delivering an hour of mad-cap entertainment.
And this sense of fun is infectious in what turns out to be a glorious romp in tights and wigs from start to finish. Absurd, farcical, surreal, anarchic and sometimes all four at the same time, it played to the actors’ obvious talent for high camp, commedia dell’arte and comic timing.
Pre-revolutionary France had some strange laws but one of the quirkiest was that which stated the only way an unhappy wife could annul a marriage was to sue her husband for impotence. This led to a Trial by Congress where the husband was expected to lay his credentials before the professional elite and a few hoi polloi.
So the Marquis de Langey (the effervescently comic Iain Gibbons) finds himself on the wrong side of wife Marie Sant-Simon’s (the comically innocent Jess Mabel Jones) Aunt (the dastardly Hannah McPake, who doubles as the Judge and a few other things). Running around supporting these three protagonists were the effortlessly deadpan Ted Lishman as Marie’s ailing grandfather (he also did a convincing side-line in midwifery) and Jonathan Pugh demonstrated an innate sense of coming timing (you’ve either got it or you ain’t!) as the droll David, manservant to the Marquis. And let’s not forget the wonderful vignettes of Dominic and Court Warden delivered by Adam C Webb, who also blows a mean euphonium.
And it’s the Aunt “what shops the Marquis” and makes him prove his manhood before the Judge in a frantic denouement of physical theatre that somehow involved every member of the cast and several of the backstage crew, with all manner of clothing and props being scattered to the four winds as consummation was effected.
Did I say romp in tights and wigs? Make that a riot instead. It’s a breath taking end to a piece that was possessed of a bendable set that metamorphosed from regency bed chamber to court room and back again, contained countless complicated costume changes and a script full of alliteration, double entendre and various references to gentlemen’s intimate bodily parts.
Silly, unpredictable, immersive, inclusive, it was also jolly good fun, made all the more so because this particular show welcomed a member of the audience with Tourette’s who delivered the best one-liner I’ve heard in years about Boris Johnson together with a witty running commentary which drew some hilarious ad-libs from the on-stage cast.
It’s a show that comes highly recommended as it dares to be different in terms of what it attempts to do with the material and with the acting team it has pulled together to deliver it. The Flop? Most certainly not!