ARTYFACTS: Spymonkey dick about

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Spymonkey dick about

Spymonkey’s Moby Dick is like an extended Goon Show. The whole gamut of funny voices, sexual innuendo and awful puns/jokes is rolled out like a third-rate 'Carry On Whaling' script. There’s that old English favourite; the Spanish waiter voice (for Ishmael read Manuel) the rather forced clumsy oaf (Stephan Kreiss), the Barbara Windsor dolly bird (Petra Massey) and the posh bloke (Toby Park). All of this dicking around the stage like am/dram idiots is just wearing. The writing is that of a second-rate extended sketch and when one of the cast finally shout ‘There she blows!” I couldn’t wait for Ahab to sink without trace. Some of the audience seemed to be having a whale of a time, but let’s be honest, middle-class theatre goers are easily pleased these days. By the end I’d had less of a bellyache from laughing than a bellyful of this nonsense. What was the point of it all?

Brighton & Hove Council have given this lot money and they've received 100% of the Arts Council money they applied for. What's going on here?

I have a half-baked idea on this. The reason this company are so popular down here in the south east is that they're quintessentially middle-England in avoiding politics, controversy, seriousness and, to be frank art. It's like resurrecting Brian Rix and farce - all that physical theatre, puns, confusions - signifying nothing. This is why middle-England just loves the Goons, Cleese and Noises Off. They're inoffensive and unthreatening. You don't have to think.


Anonymous Toby Park said...

dear Donald,
we're sorry you didn't like Moby Dick. But to cast aspersions that it is 'quintessentially middle England' and that 'middle class theatre-goers are easily pleased' by our work is, as you yourself say, half-baked. We do appeal to a theatre-savvy audience because we 'dick around' and subvert theatrical convention and stereotype (and arguably itself an inherently political act). But the best response comes from young audiences and people who rarely are served by the modern theatre community. The overwhelmingly positive response to our work from a very wide audience base is the reason that B&H Council and ACE fund our work - and in doing so get astonishing value for money. For Moby Dick this funding was 25% of the budget - three quarters of our income comes from ticket sales, fees from theatres and teaching work.
Just wanted to set the record straight. You're perfectly free not to like our work, but please don't suggest that funders ought not to be supporting it - there is a crying need for work that draws new audiences in to the theatre, and that is why theatres that book our work are so keen to do it.

11:48 am  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Hi Toby
I have to admit that the reaction of the audience was at odds with my views. However, getting people into theatres is not and end in itself - the theatre next door had over 2000 people in it to watch Jimmy Carr. My query is 'Is it art?' as that's what ACE and the Council should be funding. As for subverting theatrical convention, Brian Rix antics don't do it for me (it's certainly not 'political' in any meaningful sense). Farce is a very traditional theatrical form, one I just happen to have no time for - it's a cul de sac. It is not wrong for people who pay their taxes and Community Charge to question how it is spent.

In any case. Good luck, it was a personal view.

1:05 pm  

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