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The Frogs | Kiln Theatre

In their latest theatrical escapade, Spymonkey takes a daring leap into the realm of Aristophanes with their production of The Frogs, directed by Joyce Henderson and co-written by Carl Grose and the Spymonkey team. What unfolds on stage is a frenetic, self-referential rollercoaster that pays homage to the ancient Greek classic while weaving in contemporary reflections on loss, legacy and life.

The Frogs, written by Aristophanes in 405 BC, is a bold choice for a company known for their distinctive style of physical comedy and irreverent theatricality. The play's original premise, centred around literary criticism, collides with Spymonkey's trademark humour, creating a blend of seemingly opposing elements. The result is a production that not only provides a raw (and whacky) glimpse into the challenges of a struggling theatre company but also serves as a poignant tribute to a departed member.

The narrative follows the quixotic journey of demi-God Dionysus and his loyal manservant Xanthias as they embark on a road trip to Hades, aiming to rescue the playwright Euripides. This quest, however, takes an unexpected turn as the remaining members Toby Park and Alitor Basauri, grappling with the real-world loss of Stephan Kreiss and Petra Massey's departure, find themselves looking for more than just a playwright—they are in search of a piece of their own history and future. It is without a doubt that both Park and Basauri are veterans at this, possessing charismatic, spot-on comic timing, with the audience eating out of the palm of their hands. Joining the duo is Jacoba Williams who breathes life into the character of Heracles and various others, injecting a magnetic comic confidence into the performance. There is so much going on and the urgency and breakneck pace of the play leave little room for the audience to catch their breath.

Spymonkey's signature style of physical comedy, slapstick, clowning and intentional misdirection keeps the drama charged with energy while blurring the lines between fiction and reality. The production also navigates a complex web of self-reference, constantly breaking the fourth wall and weaving contemporary issues into the ancient narrative. The layers upon layers of comedy, at times intentionally gone awry with occasional missteps, create an engaging and unpredictable experience.

It is a testament to the talented ensemble and the spontaneity of live theatre, leaving the audience questioning whether certain moments were scripted or delightful accidents. While The Frogs delivers many great moments, there are instances where the jokes feel forced, struggling to find their natural rhythm within the chaotic narrative. Yet, beneath the madness and quirkiness lies a profound message: a reminder not to dwell excessively on the past but to “be in the now”.

The Frogs is more than just a comedy; it is a spirited and thought-provoking interplay between chaos and creation, and serves as a celebration of resilience, a creative journey that acknowledges the pain of loss and the necessity of moving forward. At the core, it encapsulates the spirit of Spymonkey's ethos: a commitment to exploring the absurdities of life with humour, while simultaneously challenging the audience to reflect on their own experience and existence. In the end, we find ourselves laughing not at them, but with them.

The Frogs plays at Kiln Theatre until 2 March. For information and tickets, follow the link here.

AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Manuel Harlan


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