Theatre review: Oedipussy at Royal & Derngate

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IN the entertainment business it is a well-known fact that in order to send yourself up as properly inept, you have to be considerably better than those who try hard but attain only mediocrity.

So even as we saw the Spymonkey physical comedy crew in clumsy, hammy, completely bonkers action, we all at the Royal and Derngate knew we were dealing with masters of their craft.

Taking the concept of low budget to new extremes the madcap four-piece (Aitor Basauri, Stephen Kriess, Petra Massey and Toby Park) took the Greek tragedy of Oedipus, he who married his mum and killed his dad, and obliterated it with Barbarella-style insanity.

Imagine Morecambe and Wise and French and Saunders historical send-ups with sex, improbable randomness, deliciously deliberate over-acting and hilariously poor costumes.

But the more they tried to insist they were outrageous, incompetent amateurs, the more we admired and laughed at their expert turns at everything from comic timing and slapstick to singing, dancing and unicycle riding.

In true community theatre style, the four also played every single character, merely switching hats (or sheep) but always highlighting for us the glorious ridiculousness of it all with a glance or expertly-judged pause.

Perhaps the best way to sum it all up would be simply to reproduce the ‘warning’ list outside the door of things the timid spectator could be faced with: ‘nudity, smoke, strobe lighting, loud bangs, strong language, bodily mutilation, scenes of incest, rape and infanticide, suicide, pestilence and animal sacrifice... and chorus work.’

How you make people roar with laughter at all that is essentially the secret of Oedipussy.