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Monkeys Blood review at Vaults, London – ‘fun, but unsubtle’

Here’s a show for fans of symbolism involving apes. In Jamie Eastlake and John Hickman’s new play, Eastlake plays Micky, a successful puppeteer from the North East with a monkey on his back in more ways than one.

First of all there’s his signature doll, a fluffy monkey called George, who spends most of the show clambering all over the place, courtesy of Antonia Draper’s manipulations. Then there’s his shameful past that threatens his skyrocketing career: as a teenager in Hartlepool, a town that once hanged a monkey as a French spy, Micky was involved in an EDL-style racist protest group.

Micky’s journey from regional racist to D-list celebrity puppeteer is told as one long, lurid story, stretching from his childhood love of kids’ TV show Rainbow, to his time in the local am-dram society, to his anti-Muslim marches, to his days at drama school in London.

In truth, this is an awkwardly structured, strangely weighted tale, with little that’s fresh about it. All the ethical meat is squished into the last 10 minutes, and Eastlake and Hickman’s points about racial tension resulting from systemic inequality are valid, but delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

It’s still an enjoyable hour, though, thanks to Eastlake and Draper’s effervescent performances – Draper multi-roles entertainingly as the puppet monkey George and several other caricatures, while Eastlake bounds around the stage, bubbly and raw throughout. It’s funny, too – particularly when Draper has George graphically recreate a sex scene using a teddy bear.

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Verdict
An entertaining story about Britain’s systemic inequality, told by one man and his puppet monkey

Production

Production
Monkeys Blood
Venue
Vaults
City
London
Starts
February 6, 2019
Ends
February 10, 2019
Authors
Jamie Eastlake, John Hickman
Director
Jamie Eastlake, Antonia Draper
Cast includes
Jamie Eastlake, Antonia Draper
Producer
Eastlake Productions
Running time
1hr