Murder mystery, spoken word, stand-up comedy and one-man show all rolled into one, with a touch of mimicry, edutainment and even strip-tease; physical, hyperactive, intellectual and absurd, it’s difficult to think of a harder show to sum up than Monkey Poet’s Murder Mystery.
After having a bin full of bottles thrown at him by an irate heckler during a gig in San Francisco, (‘the Mecca of spoken word’), performance poet Monkey Poet goes out looking to get wasted. He gets drunk, attempts to pick up a prostitute, gets thrown out of a massage parlour, and finally, desperate for a cigarette, makes what can only be described as a descent to the poetic underworld.
And yes, that’s literally. Monkey Poet finds himself at a mysterious retreat for long-dead poets, runs into everyone from Oscar Wilde to Homer, and is confronted with questions like: what is poetry? Is he a true poet? What is the place of poetry in the modern world? What’s in those ambrosial white russians? Will Dorothy Parker sleep with him? And just who was it who threw that bin at him?
The locale could not be more appropriate. Monkey Poet makes his descent and meets his ghosts in a shadowy underground space beneath what claims to be Edinburgh’s most haunted nightclub. Exploration of poetic anxiety, dark trippiness and crude humour combine in a show that alludes to everything from The Charge of the Light Brigade to Two Girls, One Cup, that asks big questions and waxes lyrical on the importance of ‘dick and fanny’ jokes.
Things take a while to kick off – the show does not truly come into its own until the cabaret of poets begins, at least ten or fifteen minutes in, and you find yourself wondering when the promised murder-mystery is going to begin. The impressions are not perfect: it’s not always clear purely from voice and body language which of the many poets is speaking at any given time, which makes for a sometimes confounding experience, particularly when the references edge into the obscure.
However, his pure energy and enthusiasm carry the show even when things get confusing and at its best it’s truly excellent; Monkey Poet’s Oscar Wilde steals the show from its own star! If you’re in Edinburgh this month and at all interested in poetry, it’s definitely worth giving this a look.
Monkey Poet’s Murder Mystery is on daily at Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street until August 25th at 12:50. More information is available here.