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Cooped – Royal & DerngateTheatre, Northampton

Creators: Cal McCrystal &SpyMonkey

Director: Cal McCrystal

Reviewer: Sue Dixon


Cooped was described by The Royal &Derngate in their pre-show literature as a pulp-gothic-romance. I would go further – it’s like Edgar Allan Poe on speed. Originally created back in 2001, it premiered in Brighton that July and enjoyed rave reviews at the Edinburgh Festival of the same year. This is the final UK remount before going on to a run in Berlin.

The director, Cal McCrystal, is renowned for his consultancy on physical comedy and his genius touch is quite evident here. From the moment the actors step on the stage there is a physical humour that comes from the innate ‘funniness’ of the actors but also the wonderfully choreographed physical action between them. There is hardly time to catch your breath as you are surprised, disturbed and roaring with laughter at every turn of this marvelous and hilarious play. Some of the content is not for the faint-hearted or easily offended, with its mixture of the bizarre and absurd: for example, the dream of a heroine by the Russian Jews, a ballet sequence in the Garden of Eden and unexpected naked dancing which had the audience gasping for breath with laughter.

Set in a grand house the complex mix of weird characters and barely plausible plot is woven together into a whodunit, physical slapstick thriller. Lucy Bradridge’s seemingly ordinary gothic set is manipulated to great comic effect with clockwork pheasants, hounds’ tails and horses’ heads appearing at all the hilarious, opportune moments. There were echoes of Monty Python /Spike Milligan surrealism all the way through.

All the cast deliver outstanding performances, which is just as well because in the hands of any lesser cast it could be an awful mess. They handle the script deftly and show their crisp understanding of comic timing and slick bodily control.

Just go and see Cooped by this simply brilliant company, SpyMonkey. Be prepared to laugh until your sides completely ache.

Just go before they disappear to Europe.

Runs until Saturday 19 January2013

Picture: Sean Dennie

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The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.