2 July 2015

The Dead Monkey at Park Theatre was a story of love/hate and humour/tragedy laced with a touch of the surreal


I had been interested in going to see The Dead Monkey since it was first announced but other things in my life, like work and life, had conspired to keep me away. I came up with a brilliant to see it at a Thursday matinee and then see another play also in its last week in the evening. Sadly the brilliant plan failed when the matinee performance sold out.

That left me having to make a last minute decision on the Thursday afternoon which of the two plays to see. The Dead Monkey sounded more fun and I like the bar, food, wifi combination at the Park Theatre so it got the nod. It was a good nod.

The theatre is about 4km from the office and that was a good excuse for a nice walk. I varied the route from previous times. I knew the general direction and headed that way taking care to try new roads when I could. There were no startling discoveries along the way but a change is as good as a rest and it was a fine walk, despite the heat.

On arrival I helped myself to a latte and an asparagus and almond flan with salad. I also helped myself to their wifi and spent my time usefully updating the Kingston Society websites. Finally I helped myself to a beer to take into the theatre with me. It was still warm.

The Dead Monkey opened with a dead monkey, it was that lump under the blanket at the front of the stage.

It was owned by a couple who lived on the California coast and who had been married for fifteen years. He was away working as a salesman and she was distraught with grief at the monkey's death and also concerned about how her husband would take it on his return.

The vet helpfully suggested ways that the monkey could be disposed of. These included an expensive burial plot at the zoo, with an optional headstone, or the cheapest option of eating it.

And that very much set the scene for the rest of the play, a relationship that had love but not much trust, events that ranged from the funny to the tragic, and a heavy dollop of the surreal.

This ebb and flow of events and moods was redolent of the sea but that might have been heavily influenced by the play being set there and by the author, Nick Darke, having a close association with North Cornwall coast. It may have been an unintentional metaphor but I found it a useful one. The other thing about the sea is that it does not stop and the play did not stop either, it came to an end but was still in motion.

And it was this movement that was the point of the play. Each event had it's own importance but what was more important was what happened before and what happened next. These events were suffused with life, death, sex and water.

Riding the waves, literally and metaphorically, were the married couple Dolores (Ruth Gibson) and Hank (James Lance). He was big, brusque, loud and hairy while she was petite and something of a dumb blond. They were an unlikely couple brought together and united by the monkey. The only other character was the vet, Charles Reston, who was a deadpan foil to the emotional couple and also the source for most of the surreal elements. All three actors were good and were very warmly applauded at the end.

The Dead Monkey was an entertaining romp through emotional peaks and troughs which seemed not that big to us as we were all sitting on the same raft as it navigated the troubled seas. This flattened the experience a little and deprived it of shock value despite the shocking things that happened. Did I mention the bestiality? 

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