Skip to main content Skip to footer site map


Photo by Sean Dennie

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 The performance includes partial nudity, smoke, haze, a firearm and ping pong balls are fired across the stage.

From This Author - Deborah Bostock-Kelley

A twice-published author, multi-time award-winning playwright, magazine writer, theatre reviewer, and newspaper journalist with 30+ years in journalism and business copywriting, Deb was a 2019 Reci... (read more about this author)

Previews: SANTA'S ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE at Straz' Teco TheatrePreviews: SANTA'S ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE at Straz' Teco Theatre
November 29, 2022

Twenty-two Patel Conservatory students, ages 10 to 18, perform in this action-packed holiday play, assisted by eight apprentices. The student apprentices design most of the show, from full costumes to the colorful video-game-influenced set.

Previews: PLAID TIDINGS at Straz CenterPreviews: PLAID TIDINGS at Straz Center
November 21, 2022

In this sequel, a heavenly phone call from Rosemary Clooney inspires The Plaids to return for a posthumous Christmas performance to bring a little harmony to a discordant world. With music from the 50s and 60s combined with traditional holiday standards, this “heaven-sent” holiday confection promises to fill the audience with nostalgia for a bygone era.

Previews: THE NIGHT BEFORE at FreeFall Theatre CompanyPreviews: THE NIGHT BEFORE at FreeFall Theatre Company
November 21, 2022

The Night Before imagines four friends snowed in Florida on December 23. They make the best of an odd weather situation, gathering around the piano for a night of fun, music, and games, accompanied by a surly house cat named Stephen Sondheim.

Previews: A NUMBER at Off-Central PlayersPreviews: A NUMBER at Off-Central Players
November 11, 2022

'Most every script you pick up begins with some sort of description, by the author, about the setting, time, place, etc. With A Number, Ms. Churchill gave us three words: ‘Where Salter Lives’ - that throws the door open to virtually any possibility,' said junior director Alan Mohney.

Previews: A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 at Tampa Repertory TheatrePreviews: A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 at Tampa Repertory Theatre
November 8, 2022

Under the direction of Stephanie Gularte, this award-winning comedy features a recognized cast of L. Peter Callender (Torvald), Emilia Sargent (Nora), Karla Hartley (Anne Marie), and Bria Matthews (Emmy.)