REVIEW – Oedipussy by Spymonkey, Traverse Theatre

*****

Unaware that she is in fact his mother, Oedipus lifts Queen Jocasta aloft, claiming her as his bride and fulfilling the terrible prophecy foretold by the gods. Until the fifty-one year old German actor playing the part of the tragic young hero has to put her down again due to his bad back.

The advancing years of the four members of Spymonkey is one of the many comic threads running through this reweaving of the classic tale in their inspired and chaotic production Oedipussy. Beginning with a scene where they address the audience, bemoaning their middle age (and quoting from a particularly scathing previous review from a well-known and justifiably feared Scottish reviewer…), Spymonkey then throw such minor inconveniences aside and launch into one of the most bizarre, chaotic and memorable retellings of Greek myth you are ever likely to witness.

The Delphic oracle is a giant pair of all-seeing balloon eyes, Queen Jocasta demonstrates her sexuality by thrusting her lycra-clad hips to the zapping of laser guns and the actor playing the part of the narrator helpfully signifies his role by placing a giant white dustbin on his head. Through clowning, slapstick, wordplay, song and a whole pantheon of other comic forms, Spymonkey somehow manage to bring a surreal cohesion to their version of the tale, presenting it with an irreverent fondness which ultimately proves to be contagiously charming and frequently hilarious.

It takes a little while for the audience to get comfortable with Spymonkey’s brand of humour, but before long their impressive timing and physicality shines through any potential confusion, and an easy alliance is soon struck. This is reinforced by each of the cast getting their moment alone to address the audience, comically expressing their feelings about how their careers have ended up the way they have — cavorting about the stage in white sheets and oversized nappies whilst attempting to bring their blood-soaked tale of incest and murder to life.

With so many varieties of humour on display here, it’s only to be expected that sometimes Spymonkey miss their targets a little. However, they hit home far more frequently, with a witty, clever and immensely likeable production which is, in its own chaotic way, just as epic as the myth it so lovingly sends up.

Oedipussy runs at the Traverse Theatre until 12 October. Further information and tickets are available from the Traverse website.

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