THE DEAD MONKEY
Whitehall Theatre, London SW1
Opened 29 September, 1998

Nick Darke's black comedy had a lukewarm reception on its 1986 RSC premiere, but David Soul and Alexa Hamilton like it so much they co-produced first a four-week run at the New End in March and now this twelve-week West End outing, in which they also star.

Its appeal to the couple as a vehicle is understandable, allowing them as it does to ironise their real-life relationship (to the extent of duetting on "I Got You Babe" as pre-show muzak) and, in particular, functioning as an oblique comment on Soul's own status. Hank, the lithe, tanned surfer whose talent for "hanging ten" with his pet monkey on his shoulder first won the fair Dolores, is a far cry from the paunched, balding, Igor-shambling salesman whom, fifteen years on, she finds repellent; likewise, the former cop-show idol and Number One balladeer is, well, not exactly the man on stage here.

To be fair, Soul deliberately plays up Hank's coarseness and dereliction, against which Hamilton portrays the long- and still longer-suffering wife. But, as Hank's beloved pet monkey dies in shall we say exotic circumstances, to be replaced by a Macedonian curly pig (whatever that is), and Dolores becomes the breadwinner as a kind of animal counsellor at the zoo, none of Darke's inferior Sam Shepardisms really count for much in the end. It's not bad, but its primary audience appeal is nonetheless as an exercise in celebrity archaeology.

Written for The Stage.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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