Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
When Oedipus poked his eyes out in one of the defining moments of classical drama, it wasn't because he got a bad review. Yet laying bare excerpts from a genuine critique of their previous show, the really rather splendid Moby Dick, is exactly how the Spymonkey company precede their self-reflexive knockabout take on Greek tragedy. Looking to retro-chic kitsch for pointers towards tackling the most dysfunctional family in theatrical history, Emma Rice's production, scripted by Carl Grose with the company, puts on the shimmery gold spandex and togas for a thrusting romp of a show that falls somewhere between Horrible Histories and Carry On Up The Thebans.
Jocasta comes on like a Barbarella out-take made flesh, the Sphinx is an afro-sporting jive-talking mamma, and assorted James Bond themes creep in and out like a sniper. All of which should make for the sort of madcap caper that the late Ken Campbell would surely approve of if it only had some depth beyond the routines. The nearest Spymonkey's regular performing quartet get to in this is via assorted confessionals which pastiche both themselves and the notion of a company that have spent too many hours in a rehearsal room together, wishing they actually could poke each other's eyes out.
At it's slickly realised and energetic best, this co-production with the Royal and Derngate, Northampton resembles the sort of hammed-up lounge bar theme nights that were all the rage back in the 1990s, but which now looks wilfully naff. There are moments, such as during Jocasta's hanging scene, that threaten to up the ante, but overall this is a company unrolling an all too familiar bag of tricks.
The Herald, October 15th 2013