Georges Feydeau must have written his French farce, Every Last Trick, knowing that one day it would fall into the hands of those anarchic clowns of the modern stage, Spymonkey.
It’s a match made in heaven and last night the lunatics were let back out of the asylum to show how to make a first night audience laugh. Laugh? My jaw is still aching.
Every Last Trick, which has opened at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, is almost a classic farce.
No-one drops their trousers (Spymonkey have been there, done that and made a front row blush) but all the other elements for a night of riotous laughter were present and correct.
Farce, and indeed stage comedy, relies heavily on perfect timing. Even those gags which look like improv are obsessionally rehearsed.
Spymonkey has built a reputation on chaos. When they first brought their productions to the Northampton venue they were a bit of an unknown quantity.
Thanks to word of mouth, and theatre-goers seeking medical treatment for hysterical laughter, the seats are full and everyone knows to expect the unexpected.
Throw the zany comic clowning in with another crazy gang, Told By An Idiot, and, well, anything can happen.
Every Last Trick is a jolly jape set in the 1920s. Juan (Aitor Basauri) claims to be the Spanish ambassador who has a neat sideline in magic tricks.
One very handy trick is to hypnotise his wife, Angela (Sophie Russell) into unconsciousness whenever he wants to slip out to meet his mistress.
It’s a second marriage for her after her husband died two years earlier. She’s fed up and suspects her husband is playing away.
Enter former lover Tom (Toby Park) to try and win her back – that’s if she can stay awake long enough.
Throw into the mix an alcoholic butler, a wig with a life of its own, lots of very physical comedy, and you have the makings of a cracking romp.
Both Park and Basauri are master clowns, making the pratfalls look effortless.
Park’s Tom is rather a dashing beau while the swarthy, sweating Spaniard, with a halting grasp of the English language, just has to throw a glance out to the audience to have everyone cracking up.
Russell swoons at regular intervals and manages to land perfectly wherever she is in the set.
While Adrien Gygax, the baby of the quartet, is agile and flexible with endlessly long legs that seem to be vying for stardom all of their own.
The story is utter nonsense but it’s just jaw-achingly hilarious.
Director Paul Hunter works on the Spymonkey wavelength and the two theatre companies have formed a magical union.
The choreography of the set pieces is flawless while the imaginative Art Deco black and white set design is simple yet very effective.
Tamsin Oglesby’s new adaptation works wonders.
I’m not sure Feydeau ever envisaged anything quite like this madcap production but I’m confident he would have been delighted with the end result.
A wonderful, wacky night of fun.
Running on the Royal stage until May 10.