We are taken to the San Francisco Fringe Festival several years ago where the protagonist of the story (Monkey Poet) was delivering his performance poetry show. The performance was not taking place in one of the cities great theatres or performance spaces, but in a small bar in an area called “Smack Alley”.
Monkey Poet does a great job in setting the scene for his theatre performance at this years Edinburgh Fringe. He also does a fantastic job in delivering the narrative and embodying the wide variety of characters within the act. Monkey Poet plays himself in a tale that begins in reality, before gradually morphing into the obscene and absurd. The performance is a farce in the good sense of the word, where we are given a multi-faceted performance and thoroughly engaging story with a thoughtful and meaningful conclusion.
We are told of an incident at the aforementioned “Smack Alley” show, where an audience member throws a bag full of bottles at the performer in protest of a poem about “Shooting a baby”. This incident is based in reality and is humorously remembered by the performer. The story continues to a San Franciscan brothel and then a traditional American dive bar, where our protagonist meets a Welsh poet. It is from this point forward we are in fantasy. The Welshman is none other than the literary great Dylan Thomas. Thomas invites Monkey Poet to a party where the other guests include Oscar Wilde, Charles Bukowski, Homer, Shakespeare, Shelly and Gil Scott Heron.
Monkey Poet takes on the characteristics of these legends and does his best to embody their larger than life personas. Luckily the performer has the confidence and enthusiasm to do his own unique take on each character. This works well in the context of the bizarre and manic biography we are watching. The story in itself is well researched and paced, creating an enjoyable journey. During the performance the poet says that for him ‘Poetry is more of a doing thing”, suggesting he is not scholarly in the subject. This is not true. The story is from the perspective of someone who loves poetry and knows its ability as an art form and a means of creative expression.
The conclusion to Monkey Poet Murder Mystery is memorable and relevant, with the poet announcing different poets from around the world who are being suppressed and persecuted for their art. This message is delivered with clarity and passion and gives a fitting and relevant ending. The fact this important message is what the audience take with them when they leave the theatre showcases Monkey Poet as an engaging and intelligent performer.
Monkey Poet’s Murder Mystery
August 4-25 (not 14)