One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show at the Tricycle Theatre
Hanging over the heads of the One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show audience, an ”ON AIR” light is continually on. With the help of canned applause, we collectively welcome the characters on stage. A split set of two naturalistic rooms depict the life and the luxury of the stars of The Crosby Show – a family comedy set in a black Philadelphia home sometime in the 1970s.
The plot explores the social standing of a bourgeois Christian family. The Reverend Avery and his outrageous wife Myra’s lives are thrown into chaos when they open their home to their ”country” niece, Beverly. In doing so, they let in everything they have been trying to deny any association with.
They believe their nineteen-year-old son, Junior, is on the path to professional dentistry. But little do they know, a sex book lies beneath the sofa cushions and the hip-swaying, afro-wearing Lil Bitz is about to knock at their door… Rejection of sex, lust, more sex and denial of their black roots are faults with this preposterously dysfunctional family.
The choice of Dawn Walton to bring the original script by Don Evan back to life as the play’s director was a wise one. There is a weighty cultural subtext, and it is not lost on the audience as One Monkey’s actor-audience sitcom setting makes it very difficult to miss. But there is doubt in the audience’s participation. It hangs over them, glowing like the ”ON AIR” sign.
The script is brilliant. One-liners carefully delivered by the actors give power to the performance. The almost over-rehearsed interactions between characters and their monologues could be interpreted as an intentional ploy by Walton to gain a firmer grip on the meeting of sitcom and Restoration comedy. All of the drama is present, but the timing lacks the punch necessary to make the audience join wholeheartedly in the hysterical canned laughter that echoes around the theatre.
In the play’s attempt to destroy the fourth wall through its sitcom-like setting, the audience feel as if they too are acting in this quirky production. At times this feels a little laboured by the hard-working actors, though the brightness and quality of the acting and directing were not entirely outshone. A fun and delightfully crude performance by Eclipse Theatre, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show is worth the journey down Kilburn High Road.
One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show is at the Tricycle Theatre until 9th February 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.