Monkey Poet's Murder Mystery

Sat 4th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Bridget Wynne Willson

at 09:49 on 5th Aug 2012

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Monkey Poet’s one man show takes place in the basement of a heavy metal themed bar; it is nothing if not atmospheric and certainly not for the close-minded.

Following initial feelings of apprehension about the show I was pleasantly surprised with the lunchtime performance. Monkey Poet is most certainly an acquired taste, yet successfully carries his solo production with unparalleled energy and enthusiasm as he regales the surreal tale of a gig in San Francisco. After a failed performance he spends an evening in the company of some of literature’s most colourful poets; think Dylan Thomas, Homer and Lord Byron. The show is absorbing as Monkey Poet plays a multitude of characters; accents are largely impressive, but at times unsuccessful as the burden of so many contrasting figures weighs down on our narrator. Although this aspect of ‘Monkey Poet’s Murder Mystery’ will suit some tastes, subject matter is often too niche for all to enjoy the piece in its entirety. Nevertheless, this gives rise to the possibility of learning something new.

Attempts at comedy fall short but this is rescued by Monkey Poet’s engaging style and sympathetic attitude when handling more adult subject matter, such as drugs and prostitution. A drawback of the narrative however is his approach towards female and homosexual characters, in the form of Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde. Parker is portrayed, in spite of her literary prowess, purely as a sexual object and Wilde’s identity remains also defined within the constraints of his sexuality. In Monkey Poet’s defence, full character development under his temporal and spatial restrictions made this difficult to change.

The show is ultimately a must-see for those wishing to get to the heart of the Free Fringe. Although Monkey Poet will not be a hit with all audiences, and a murder mystery is bizarrely nowhere in sight, his irrepressible energy and competence compensate for those willing to take a risk and experience something unusual.

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Joel Singer

at 10:04 on 5th Aug 2012

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This free Fringe show is set in a grungy basement cellar of a metal bar and is genuinely a one-man show in every sense of the word, as Monkey Poet controls the, albeit simple, lighting and sound himself. The performance was incredibly energetic and with neither a set nor props, he must be commended for relying solely on his imagination. However, the heavy reliance on crude humour and some trite impersonations make the show all too often unwitty.

As the show begins, the audience find themselves instantly immersed in the carefully crafted persona, as we are presented with a metatheatrical commentary on a bad gig before, through the actor’s own impersonations; he meets his literary heroes, à la 'Midnight in Paris'. Monkey Poet embodies a range of characters (from Gill Scott-Heron to Dorothy Parker) and at points the performance he channels is funny, retorting to his imagined T.S. Eliot: “at least I didn’t write f**king 'Cats'”. Yet I felt that none of the personae were given sufficient time to be carefully explored and the show could have benefitted from fewer, better executed characters. Also, on occasion, his transitions between impersonations were a little unclear. The lack of depth was evident as many of the invented personae, notably Wilde and Burns, relied heavily on crude and usually predictable penis jokes.

The show’s physicality was impressive, with movement and staging helping to make it a good piece of submersing and realistic theatre. The ultimate message and uniting theme of the performance was to present that throughout history, poets were found on the fringes of society and should act as a voice for the discarded and disenfranchised of society.

There are definite positive aspects of this one-man show but it ultimately fails in its aim of creating a comedic and poetic murder mystery, instead presenting the rather sad plight of the modern-day, struggling performance poet. Monkey Poet is an interesting watch and definitely creates an energetic and engaging performance but is disappointing when it comes down to pure comedic value.

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