This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 10 November 2017.
THE HARTLEPOOL MONKEY by Carl Grose
Presented by Gyre & Gimble and Fuel, in association with Stratford Circus Arts Centre
Directed by: Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié
Performed by: Rebecca Collingwood, Fred David, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, James Duke, Baker Mukasa, Rachel Sanders, and John Trindle
Produced by: Fuel
I’ve been to Hartlepool once, and it was the first thing that came up in conversation: “Have you ever heard the story of the monkey who was hanged?” A co-production between Gyre & Gimble and Fuel, The Hartlepool Monkey takes the unsettling local legend of a monkey mistaken for a French spy and turns it into a totally inspiring show which gets just about everything right. At the risk of sounding a bit X Factor, it’s easily my favourite performance of the year.
Actually, it’s the kind of show that makes you start saying stuff like ‘it was so much better than I thought it was going to be/than it needed to be’, because it’s unashamedly designed to work for the whole family, which tends to make us grown-up theatregoers fall into the trap of expecting something…simpler? Smaller? Sillier? The Hartlepool Monkey definitely makes me nostalgic for my childhood experiences of going to the theatre, but only because it’s been so damn long since I saw something which feels this overwhelmingly exciting to watch. I want to be able to look at five things happening onstage at once. I want to laugh louder and less politely and I want to cry at the end. I want to see it again.