It's all Greek to them

<i>Goose Nights</i> | The Lyric Studio, London
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The Independent Culture

" Goose Nights. How is this possible? What does it mean?" reads the headline on the latest programme from contemporary clowning trio, Peepolykus. The question is answered with a series of nonsensical definitions from a dictionary of the absurd, illuminating nothing except a joyful desire to tumble with words, roll them round the mouth until they take on a lunatic life of their own. In fact, Goose Nights is a Greek tragedy, but not the sort that is going to have the rusty classicists reaching for the reference books.

" Goose Nights. How is this possible? What does it mean?" reads the headline on the latest programme from contemporary clowning trio, Peepolykus. The question is answered with a series of nonsensical definitions from a dictionary of the absurd, illuminating nothing except a joyful desire to tumble with words, roll them round the mouth until they take on a lunatic life of their own. In fact, Goose Nights is a Greek tragedy, but not the sort that is going to have the rusty classicists reaching for the reference books.

In this anarchic take on Hercules, Panos, a Greek waiter, is plucked from obscurity by the gods to perform 12 tasks, on which the fate of mankind rests. The slapstick action takes place in modern-day Athens and Peepolykus presents us with gods such as Hades, looking like a cross between Lenny Kravitz and Biggles, Poseidon, inexplicably dressed in a bed sheet, and a curly-tressed Zeus who bares an uncanny resemblance to Maradona. Once again, the comic trio, previously acclaimed for performances such as Let the Donkey Go and Horses for Courses, are less concerned with making a clever-clever interpretation of a story than creating loopy variations on a theme.

John Nicholson, Javier Marzan, and David Sant offer up the characteristically chaotic Peepolykus slapstick, improvised from scratch in rehearsal and subject to unwieldy flights of tomfoolery on stage. Panos's 12 tasks, relegated to a fairground and choreographed by Norman the Doorman (Zeus's n'er-do-well brother), include riding a merry-go-round and firing plastic balls at revolving ducks. At one point, a ball ricochets off the lighting-rig into the audience and it's a free for all, audience and cast firing balls at each other as if the fate of mankind depended on it.

It is this almost no-method-in-the-madness style of comedic improv that has gained the trio an ever-increasing number of fans. But theirs is a comedy grounded in theatre rather than stand-up. Nicholson gained his stripes at circus school while Sant and Marzan are former fellow students at London's Philippe Gaulier theatre school and now performers with the likes of Told By An Idiot and Trestle Theatre.

Muscular though the improv is, it never ascends into Whose Line Is It Anyway? word-perfect wackiness. This is a free-form romp into the ridiculous. All the better that the trio's hammy Greek accents can at times be heard wandering off into the Welsh hills, and that their foolish moustaches are too heavy to remain adhesive throughout ("Oh, look, a strange and exotic butterfly has landed on your shirt!"). Such loose-knit lunacy only adds to their credibility.

If you fancy a night where a Demis Roussos cameo mutates into Jeremy Paxman and the ancient phoenix rises from the ashes to become "half man, half... pigeon", then get yourself along to Goose Nights. I still can't tell you what the title means, but I can tell you that the piece does exactly what it says in the programme: "Catharsis through Clowning".

To 28 Oct (020-8741 2311)

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