Monkey business as the best comedy show at the Edinburgh Festival comes to Norwich
- Credit: Archant
Richard Gadd's award-winning genre-busting performance Monkey See Monkey Do sees him explore what it means to be a man via treadmills and gorilla costumes.
Richard Gadd made a name for himself with smash-mouth, off the wall shows entailing drugs, sex, and gratuitous violence. His early underground hits included Cheese and Crack Whores, which revolved around a man who mysteriously gets hit on the head and loses all memory of the first 21 years of his life, and the darkly disturbing, psychologically warped Breaking Gadd.
However after his 2015 Edinburgh Fringe late-night stunt-comedy show Waiting For Gaddot proved to be a runaway hit, winning the Amused Moose Comedy Award for Best Show and transferring for a sell-out three week run at London's Soho Theatre, the Scottish grindhouse comic decided to come clean about the man behind this in-your-face public persona, revealing the personal upheavals he had in his life that led to it and a bare-all look at the very real monkey he has had on his back for years.
The result is Monkey See Monkey Do which offers a fresh insight into mental illness in the modern age through a multi-media stand-up routine that goes to the depths of who he is – and what it means to be a man.
Originally from Fife, Scotland, the comedian has said a motivating factor in writing the show was to focus on the outdated idea of manhood that was a pivotal part of his own struggles to come to terms with a dark chapter in his own life. He describes it as 'the most truthful thing I've ever done.'
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It has certainly stuck home. Monkey See Monkey Do saw him take home the prestigious Lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Comedy Show last year and was also nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Award and a Total Theatre Award for Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form.
The show's Soho Theatre transfer sold out its first five week run so quickly that it was extended for another five weeks in early 2017. The show will also be heading down under for a run at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
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Before that he is bringing this memorable, genre-busting performance to Norwich Arts Centre.
• What is Monkey See Monkey Do about in your own words?
Monkey See Monkey Do is a comedy show which fuses theatre, performance art, treadmills, and gorilla costumes - whilst exploring themes of masculinity, mental health, and sexual abuse. All the comedy clubs are doing it these days.
• What makes this different to the shows you've done before?
It has a personal narrative and is very much between the genres of comedy and theatre. All of my previous shows operated at arm's length from me as a person. This one takes all the anarchic components of my work and grounds them in a personal narrative. The result is that it has more heart than my previous shows.
• Why do you think that you won the Lastminute.com award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
It is very different to most other comedy shows in terms of its ambition and style. I think I can go out on a limb and say that there has never been comedy show like it, at least one that I am aware of. It is also exploring some super challenging themes whilst trying to be funny. I think sexual abuse is rarely talked about in males, particularly in comedy and as a result it stood out as striking. The fact it is not afraid to drop the laughs to get a point across also helped. Challenging themes are rarely explored in comedy but last year it seemed liked the two worlds fused. Lots of Fringe acts talked about upheavals in their life last year - brain hemorrhages, Aids diagnosis, bereavement, etc. I feel Monkey See Monkey Do spoke for the way comedy shifted towards the personal last year.
• What have audience reactions been to the show, given what you talk about in the show?
Generally positive. You are never going to please everyone all of the time but in terms of all my shows, this is definitely the least divisive in terms of audience enjoyment. I feel people appreciate how much I give in the show. I run 10km in every show for starts and I think they appreciate how honest it is. One thing I wasn't prepared for was how many people come up to me after the show in order to talk about their own experiences of assault. I get letters and emails and all sorts. That is the daunting part, being a mouthpiece for other survivors. I do my best for sure but I was not prepared for how many people reach out. I am glad they do. I just hope what I say back is helpful.
• Have you been to Norwich before and what are you looking forward to coming to the city?
I have never been to Norwich before but I am a football fanatic and have always appreciated watching the Canaries play. I was sad when they got relegated. I hope they come back up this year.
• Richard Gadd: Monkey See Monkey Do, Norwich Arts Centre, February 23, 8pm, £10 (£8 cons), 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk