If laughter is the best form of therapy, then the British-based physical comedy troupe Spymonkey are just the tonic. Their brand new show, Moby Dick, is about an impresario called Tony Parks, whose ambition it is to put on Moby Dick: The Play. Quite how to put a whale on stage was just one of the challenges faced by the quartet, who got round it by dressing one of their actors in white lycra.
This 21st-century update of Herman Melville's classic story comes complete with an underwater electro-pop dance number, with the cast dressed in coral reef costumes. "There is something unhinged about this show in the same way as a Goons episode is," explains Spymonkey's co-founder, Toby Park, who performs the lead role, Tony Parks. "By the end of it my character is destroyed by the play in much the same way as Ahab is destroyed by Moby Dick."
Spymonkey, whose other members are Aitor Basauri, Petra Massey and Stephan Kreiss, formed in 1998 and have carved out a reputation as one of the funniest theatre companies in the UK. Their first show, Stiff, set in an undertakers, was a runaway hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It featured the stuffy Forbes Murdston, played by Park, who is trying to write a moving play about his wife's funeral. Cooped followed in 2001, a take on the gothic romance novella, with undertones of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Murdston is a reclusive writer, living in a sinister household, along with an ominous German butler. He hires a secretary, who has no escape once she falls in love with him. In 2003 Cirque du Soleil invited the troupe to Las Vegas for two years to perform in their burlesque show, Zumanity.
This new production is directed by the award-winning Jos Houben – an original member of Complicite, a long-term collaborator with the Right Size and a professor at Ecole Jacques Lecoq. "We celebrate superhuman stupidity," says Park. "Audiences laugh louder in our shows than in other shows. Sometimes we really worry that somebody will die laughing."
Spymonkey are touring the UK from 18 Sept to 7 Nov. (www.spymonkey.co.uk)