A show that truly sticks in the mind
Tricky to review a show without revealing the central premise, but needs must … Richard Gadd has become known for his high-concept comedy shows. They’re not for everyone, as evidenced by the mixed reviews which he wears like a badge of honour at the start of Monkey See, Monkey Do. Maybe some people are freaked out by the fact that Gadd’s comedy shows aren’t like anything we’ve seen before, man, with the exception of Kim Noble. They’re more like solo comedy plays, with film playing a major part in how they work. Not as snappy as “stand-up comedy”, I grant you, but the game’s not played on paper.
It’s a testament to Monkey See, Monkey Do that you don’t come out thinking about genres and methods of media. This is simply because the videos, theatrical elements and script add up to a complete spectacle – it’s his most complete show, in fact. Less funny than last year’s award-winning Waiting For Gaddot, but more coherent, less smart-arse, and far more hard-hitting.
It’s no spoiler to say that Gadd performs the show on a treadmill (he covers about six miles during the show). The novelty of that wears off, of course, but it serves a purpose. Most importantly, Gadd has a secret. In fact he’s got a couple. Whereas most comics would simply stand up and tell the story of his internal struggle, Gadd takes us into its very belly. The show is a manifestation itself of that struggle. He shows us how unbearable the build-up of tension was, as he swung between action and inaction. If ever there was a show were someone opened themselves up and made themselves vulnerable for their art, it’s this.
That may make it sound very navel-gazing, but there’s too much action going on for it to ever feel that way. Plus, the pace barely lets up – a prepared voiceover of his internal monologue is going all the time, requiring Gadd to keep up. It’s going at quite a lick but he manages it. Monkey See, Monkey Do also looks outwards, exploring the male psyche, it’s um, quirks, and the behaviour it can sanction.
There’s one thing I can be concrete about: Richard Gadd is the real deal. He’s a comic with vision, and the ability to execute it too. What once could be dismissed as gimmickry is now without doubt originality.
Review by Paul Fleckney