"Outrageously funny pulp gothic spoof"
by Jill Lawrie for remotegoat on 25/05/19

Having earned Spymonkey international acclaim in the early 2000s, ‘Cooped’ is back for a 20th Anniversary tour, starting in the UK, then on to the US under the new name ‘Hysteria.’ Now, as before, the show reduces its audience to a laughing heap with impeccably choreographed and delightfully demented, Monty Python-esque scenes.

Aitor Basauri, Stephen Kreiss, Petra Massey and Toby Park are the original Spymonkey members. They indulge their characters in ‘Cooped’ to perfection, relying on their bodies and lingering facial expressions alone, to deliver some of the best punchlines. They are true masters of physical comedy.

Laura du Lay, disco-ready in go-go attire, arrives at the mansion of her new employer, a handsome English Aristocrat with a dubious character. The lift is haunted, the house full of dark secrets and it’s plagued at all times by the repulsively behaved German Butler. Enter the Spanish soap-opera heart-throb turned family solicitor. Could our gullible, heroine find solace in him? No, we didn’t think so, not even when he’s double-roling as ‘Inspector JudaDench’.

Plucky though she is, the show’s leading woman is sexually objectified, outnumbered by opportunistic males and lacking the feminist credentials that would help defend her against this kind of gender-based humiliation. In choosing not to challenge dated sexism but to embody it for laughs, the show walks a fine line. For some people, the hilarious performances are enough to switch off the bits of their brains that would normally take issue with this and other offences the content is guilty of, but that isn’t the case for everyone. So, for some, there are times when laughing feels uncomfortable.
The set of Featherstone Hall is brilliantly rigged so that it mocks the characters in their darkest moments. Be it a ‘horse’, the butler, a piece of foliage, a pesky pheasant or a well-timed sound effect, someone or something is always hell bent on ruining the characters’ composure and the seriousness of anyone’s romantic intentions.
The troubled heroine’s diary entries, dreams and hypnoses cue scenes in which anything goes, from a bare (and dangling) ballet sequence to religious opponents losing their cool and their piety with it.

‘Cooped’ could do with some changes to help it land more comfortably in the context of 2019. Other than that, it is exciting, flawless entertainment, with a huge dose of laughter guaranteed.

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