BWW Previews: FOREMOST BRITISH PHYSICAL COMEDY THEATRE COMPANY SPYMONKEY HAS AMERICAN DEBUT, HYSTERIA at Straz Center For The Performing Arts
If you mix Monty Python and the Marx Brothers with a dose of Hitchcock, you will not come close to the surreal madcap comedy that is about to take center stage in their Straz Center American debut. Spymonkey's Hysteria from September 19 - November 3 in Jaeb Theater showcases the talents of the internationally-renowned comedy and physical theatre company, Spymonkey.
Called "four of the greatest clowns working in Britain" by Time Out (UK), Britains Toby Park and Petra Massey, Spaniard Aitor Basauri, and German Stephan Kreiss having been performing hilarious and ridiculous theatre since forming in 1998. Directed by Cal McCrystal, the comedy genius behind James Corden's Broadway smash One Man Two Guvnors, in the American debut of Hysteria, the three men are joined by American vaudevillian, comedienne, and performance artist Anne Goldmann.
The name Spymonkey came from co-artistic director Toby Park being a fan of Mad Magazine's comic strip "Spy VS Spy" and the 80s band The Blow Monkeys.
"Monkey felt like a good animal for us to associate with, so we put the two words together and made Spymonkey," explained Toby. "We're very excited to play for a US audience. I think people will enjoy our sense of humor. It's very physical and high-energy. The inspiration for the show is our director Cal used to watch Dark Shadows, a gothic soap opera when he was a lad."
Hysteria references Hitchcock films like Rebecca, Psycho, and the Birds and the name is twofold, representing the Hitchcock-feel to the show and the reaction patrons have upon seeing it performed.
The story takes place in a remote spooky mansion in the countryside where a young girl becomes the secretary for a mysterious aristocrat and strange things begin to happen. Incorporate a German butler and a Spanish soap star and who knows what comedic direction the farce will follow.
"There is a lot of play with the tension and drama of Hitchcock - film noir, but it's really a structure on which to hang some fantastic comic business. We like to do mad things, crazy things which make people laugh. We like to make funny theatre," said Toby. "Our intention is to make people laugh harder than they have ever laughed before. We take audiences on a wave of laughter that starts at the beginning of the show and takes us through to the end of the show and people say they'd never laughed so much in a theatre ever before.
"Cal, considered the foremost comedy director in Britain now, helped make us make our reputation as the foremost comedy theatre company in Britain. When people say that their sides ache from laughing, have tears down their faces - those kinds of extreme physical reactions - are exactly what we are after. It is the most fantastic feeling in the world to be on stage and have people laughing around you. To share this together, particularly in the world the way it is at the moment, it's really important to get people in the same space being together just laughing."
When asked what he wanted his audience to be thinking about at the end of the show, Toby said he hopes that patrons share their experience.
"I hope they can't wait to tell their best friend what an amazing night they've just had."
Spymonkey's Hysteria is September 19 - November 3 at Straz Center, 1010 N Macinnes Pl, Tampa. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.strazcenter.org/Events/Straz/Shows/1920_Broadway/Spymonkey-s-Hysteria. The performance includes partial nudity, smoke, haze, a firearm and ping pong balls are fired across the stage.