Thursday, 27 March 2003

Chocolate Monkey, John-Paul Hussey , March 27, 2003

 Chocolate Monkey by John-Paul Hussey 
 fortyfivedownstairs, March 27 to April 1, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

John-Paul Hussey is an Eveready bunny, a human dynamo. From the moment he enters the space, he is on like an electric grid.

Chocolate Monkey is a self-narrated, comic, solo performance about a recent period of Hussey's life. The individual story elements are not earth shattering but his execution of them is a theatrical trip.

Hussey is compelling as a performer. He writhes and sways as if possessed. He switches effortlessly between accents and characters. His own natural Irish accent, now slightly Australianised, is the voice of the core character.

As he gambols about in the tiny space at fortyfivedownstairs  he transforms instantly from a surly Russian, a Chinese cook, a provocative Frenchman and a toffy nosed English git.

Amongst these for no apparent reason apart from the fact that it is hilarious, he does an impeccable impersonation of Sean Connery. Another fine character is Peter, the Greek rail worker who has pure Preston Greek-Australian dialect.

One completely disconnected but laugh-out-loud funny moment is his opening representation of how to speak and sound Japanese. Put together freezing, constipation and memory loss and Hussey has a perfect cultural impersonation.

The story is about Hussey's failed attempt to mount his show in an illegal Collingwood space. His anecdotes about local fringe theatre identities, the Irish funeral director and Smith Street junkies are achingly funny. But Chocolate Monkey is not merely a string of jokey characters.

Hussey, with director Lucien Savron holds the series of scenes together with seamless scene changes, sound bites and evocative and intelligent visual imagery.

Classical images, designed by Natalie Lowrey,  appear and mutate before our eyes. Scene titles give us a hint of the story to come.

Kelly Ryall's sound design is an intrinsic component in the performance while the lighting design ( Mark Benson OK  Remo Vallance  creates atmosphere and physical boundaries.

My one concern was the sight lines in the space. When Hussey hits the floor, we want to know what he is doing because everything he does is rivetting.

By Kate Herbert

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