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Bird's Review: Spyski



A film, shot in night-vision, shows a bird's-eye-view of a remote Siberian town. Unsavoury genetic experiments are taking place. The scientists' buildings, from far above, look austere and forbidding. The town is cold-hearted, desperate. Clouds drift across the freezing sky.

Except none of this exists. The town is papier-maché, the clouds are cotton wool blobs, lollystick lampposts and Lego men are scanned by a common cam-corder.

Spyski is refreshingly daft, not least in terms of the plot, which runs more or less as follows:

Co-writer John Nicholson plays a 'spactor' (a cross between a spy and an actor), charged with interrupting rehearsals for The Importance of Being Earnest to ensure that a prototype Russian non-wailing baby doesn't get into the wrong hands. Or rather, the company decide to bring their play about this spactor's mission to the Lyric to persuade the audience that, given the choice between being a sheep and a horse, you should always be a horse. Obviously.

Still, the plot isn't really the point. Spyski is all about the gags, many of them technically ingenious and very funny. It is refreshing to see new silliness return on the London stage. Most of the silliness we see in mainstream British theatre is still provided by Shakespeare – one thinks of the current popularity of Love's Labour's Lost and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Too many new playwrights and emerging theatre companies reject humour – the misconception is that this makes their work more relevant. Cheap gags of the type we see in Spyski are underused: they remind us of the importance of not being earnest and that nothing illuminates the underlying humanity/idiocy of global politics more than laughing about it.

In the end Spyski's confusing analogies and the high levels of self-consciousness fail to distract from the real ingredients: a series of set-piece one-liners and slapstick delights. Thrown knives twang into walls, tongues extend out of mouths and these tricks (all brilliantly, visually executed) form the real joy of Spyski. It is not so much a postmodern masterpiece as an incessant, hugely enjoyable gag reel.

Spyski runs at the Lyric till November 1st


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