It’s a winner, this combination of Hijinx and Spymonkey. Hijinx works brilliantly with actors who have learning disabilities, while masters of daftness Spymonkey understand clowning like few others.
Their musical farce is self-referential throughout, with the actors (in costumes ranging from periwigs to hedgehog suits) talking us through the construction of the story: a marquis in 17th-century France with erectile dysfunction, at a time when that was (bizarrely) illegal. In the mix is deadpan, clowning and pure silliness.
The story – performance failure of a different kind – becomes a metaphor for the performance style of the piece itself. It turns the idea of failure, in bed or on stage, completely on its head. And just embraces it all.
There are a couple of ‘straighter’ performers desperately clinging to the fourth wall and being gleefully hamstrung by the jokers around them.
These performers completely understand slapstick, even if they don’t always nail the timing. But that’s part of the point. You make your own timing. The cast members constantly adapt and react on stage, turning prop failures or punchline misfires to their advantage.
That approach means they can accommodate anything that happens in the rough and tumble of live theatre. It’s impossible to know what of the roughness is improvised and what is scripted.
Most of the time that means complete chaos, weird and wonderful. It’s amazing how a show that’s so clever can look so brilliantly stupid.