The Anglo-Hispano-Swiss quartet who constitute Spymonkey power their physical comedy along with a neat conceit. Supposedly, old-school actor Forbes Murdston has recruited a company "to help him represent a sad episode in his recent life," the death and funeral of his wife; however, the other performers turn out to be unable to stick to his solemn script. Thus, while Toby Park as Murdston remains sombre and stone-faced throughout, he is increasingly frustrated by the incompetence and interpolated routines of his colleagues.
Of course, it's all deliberate and a black delight. Aitor Basauri as undertaker Mr Graves (pronounced GRA-vess) and his colleague Mr Keller (Stephan Kreiß) are eager to please but comically lacking in the memory department, whilst Petra Massey as their embalmer flirts obsessively with the bereaved, turning up at one point in a funereal ra-ra mini-dress.
The four performers constantly and cheekily play with theatrical and staging conventions, entering and exiting through unexpected parts of Lucy Bradridge's ingenious set and conducting a bizarrely hilarious dance routine with the late Mrs Murdston's dismembered body parts in the coffin. I have often been disappointed by physical comedy on the Fringe, but Stiff and 3 Dark Tales make this a vintage year for such work.
Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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