About Us

SPYMONKEY is the UK’s leading physical comedy ensemble, based in Brighton and comprising of a core team: artistic directors Toby Park and Aitor Basauri, executive producer Emily Coleman, associate artist Lucy Bradridge, and education and training officer Natasha Britton.

We have been making Theatre of the Funny since 1998. With our dark, edgy physical comedy rooted ‘somewhere between Monty Python, the Marx Brothers and Samuel Beckett’ (The Houston Chronicle), Spymonkey have proved to be a truly international phenomenon, enjoyed by and accessible to a wide range of international audiences.

Recent years have seen the company growing in new directions as their creative focus has shifted from performing to creating and producing Spymonkey shows, as well as an extensive international training programme. They recently directed Orpheus in the Underworld, their first full-scale opera, and Spymonkey’s first show for children, Hairy.

Founding associate Petra Massey has been on long-term secondment as the host of Spiegelworld’s Atomic Saloon in Las Vegas since 2019. 

Stephan Kreiss was an associate artist until his death in 2022.

Spymonkey Shows

Stiff

(1998), a black comedy about undertakers, Total Theatre Award Winner, British Council Showcase of the best of British theatre in 2001, toured to Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Finland, Spain, France, USA, Canada, Mexico, Syria, Ireland, Romania, Czech Republic and Sweden.

Cooped

A deliciously demented take on the pulp gothic romance – Hitchcock’s Rebecca meets The Pink Panther (2001-2019)

Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity

(2003-05) Cirque du Soleil’s resident show at New York New York Hotel Casino, Las Vegas. Spymonkey created the comedy content for this adult burlesque show, seen by half a million people.

Bless

(2007), a meditation on the lives of the saints, directed by Cal McCrystal, nominated for 3 Betty Mitchell Awards.

Moby Dick

(2009) directed by Jos Houben & Rob Thirtle, which firmly established them as a mid-scale company, including a run at the Lyric Hammersmith, and toured internationally to Finland, Holland & Belgium.

Love In

(2011) a self-help cabaret directed by Cal McCrystal and Kit Green, winner Best Comedy Brighton Festival 2011, Udderbelly Southbank.

Oedipussy

(2012) created with Kneehigh director Emma Rice and writer Carl Grose, toured UK including Royal & Derngate Northampton, Liverpool Playhouse and Lyric Hammersmith. Winner Argus Angel Brighton Festival.

The Complete Deaths

(2016) all the deaths in Shakespeare by ‘four of the greatest clowns working in British theatre’, created with director/writer Tim Crouch

A Christmas Carol

(2018) co-produced with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, a Christmas box office smash directed by Ed Gaughan.

Hysteria / Cooped (2019)

A deliciously demented take on the pulp gothic romance, Hitchcock’s Rebecca meets The Pink Panther. Spymonkey’s longest-standing show revived for US as ‘Hysteria’

Orpheus in the Underworld

Spymonkey direct their first full-scale opera, for the Volksoper Vienna

Hairy

Comedy-meets-rock-band-meets-punk-clown-mayhem – our first kids’ show

The Frogs

Spymonkey’s tragically funny attempt to pull off Aristophanes’ classic comedy

Collaborations & Commisions

Miss Behave’s Variety Nighty (2008) a variety  show at the Roundhouse Camden.

Palazzo (2008-9, 2010-11) a spiegeltent gastronomical cabaret, seasons in Amsterdam and Stuttgart.

Sandi Toksvig’s Christmas Cracker (2010) at the Royal Fesitval Hall, with Ronnie Corbett.

Jekyll&Hyde(ish) a co-production with Lyric Hammersmith and Peepolykus, directed by Sean Holmes and written by Joel Horwood for Latitude Festival in 2011.

Spookshow (2013) a site-specific commission for the Winter Gardens at Showzam Festival Blackpool.

Directed and co-wrote FABULOUS BACKSTROM BROTHERS (2016) a Finnish clown opera, and the symphonic BIG BANG SIEGFRIED for Orchestra Hagen, Germany.

THE FLOP (2018) a co-production with Hijinx Theatre Company Cardiff, nominated for a Total Theatre Award.

Members of Spymonkey have collaborated as directors and physical comedy consultants on a number of projects including physical comedy direction for:

Chichester Festival Theatre’s Mack and Mabel starring Michael Ball (2015) – physical comedy direction

Royal Shakespeare Company’s THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (2018)  – physical comedy direction

National Theatre TARTUFFE (2019) and JACK ABSOLUTE FLIES AGAIN (2021) – physical comedy direction

Conceived and directed the opening and closing ceremonies of Unity Festival Wales Millenium Centre Cardiff

Physical comedy consultancy for Sacha Baron Cohen’s feature film GRIMSBY BROTHERS.

Screen appearances have included Solstrom for Bravo Cable Network, Australia Broadcasting Company, BBC, Carlton, Just For Laughs galas with George Lopez and William Shatner, and in the Gemini-Award-winning documentary Lovesick, directed by Lewis Cohen. They have performed as guest acts and hosts in Alternative Eurovision, La Clique, The Razzle, Tina C, South Bank Centre’s New Year Eve show with Bellowhead.

The company has a vibrant and increasingly over-subscribed educational department, frequently running workshops around the world. They have lectured to a number of universities and performing arts schools including Winchester University, Kingston University, Northampton University, University of Kent. In 2015 they piloted a programme for recovering addicts in conjunction with Phoenix Futures. More details about all of our educational activities here.

Spymonkey has been the subject of academic study by undergraduates of Rose Bruford (dissertations by Smari Gunnarsson and Mathew Baynton), University of York, University of Northampton, as well as PhD doctorate work by Lucy Amsden of Glasgow University, and Laura Cockett of Liverpool University. Publications examining the company’s work include Demian Reis’s examination of modern clowning ‘Caçadores de Risos’ (in Portuguese!) and Stephe Pritchard’s study of contemporary dramatic practice. They appear on a number of GCSE and A level syllabuses as an exceptional example of devised physical theatre, clown and comedy.

THEATRE OF THE FUNNY

Following the seismic changes that affected the company over the last years, we took some time to write something about what defines our philosophy. The result was the Theatre of the Funny Manifesto, published in October 2022.

Click on the image below to read…

Theatre of the Funny

The Team

Aitor Basauri
Joint Artistic Director & Performer

Founder, co-creator and performer of all Spymonkey shows to date. Performed in The Servant of Two Masters at Sheffield Crucible (1996), Axomate at the Seville Expo (1992), Eulenspiegel (1991) and in Karl’s Kuhne Gassenchau’s Grand Paradis and Stau in Zurich (1997 and 1998). Director of Little Prince for Donkey Productions (1997), Un Vento Impetuoso for La Canoppia (1996) and Meci Y Me Fui for Pez Enraya ( 1997). In 1999 he appeared in Circus Knie, the Swiss State Circus, and in 2000 formed his own company Punto Fijo, based in Bilbao. Appeared in Cirque Images’ 2003 series Solstrom for Bravo Cable Network. Appeared in Bertold Brecht’s Senor Carrera’s Rifles at the Young Vic, directed by Paul Hunter (2007).

Directing credits include: ‘Lily & Marlene’ for La Dinamica (Spain 2015); ’Looking for Duende’ for Teatro Entre Escombros (Spain 2015); ’Hondycops’ for Squadra Sua (Czech Republic 2015); ’Ferucchio Peru is Extraordinaire’ for Leebo Luby (UK 2015); Manifest Destiny (New York 2015); Fabulous Bäckström Brothers (Finland 2014); Entre Escobros ‘600 Teatro’ (Spain 2014); ‘Gloriator’ for Skipstick Productions (London 2013); ‘NMIIDP’ Simone Riccio, (London 2013); ‘Herr Ist Immer Der Natur’ for Die Drei Auf Den Baum (Berlin 2012); ‘Discombobulated’ for Publick Transport (Bristol & UK tour, 2011); ‘Ramshackadelicious’ (Bristol 2011); ‘Shake’ for The Last Baguette (Switzerland 2010). Director of physical comedy for Chichester Festival Theatre’s ‘Mack & Mabel’ (2015) starring Michael Ball. Co-director of Orpheus in the Underworld at Vienna Volksoper operahouse which opens in 2023.

Aitor is an acclaimed teacher of clown, regularly holding Spymonkey masterclasses in London, New York, Berlin, Los Angeles and around the world, and for the Clown Doctors organisation in Germany, Austria and France.

Toby Park
Managing Artistic Director & Performer

Has performed and co-created all Spymonkey shows to date. Studied Drama at Hull University, and trained at Fool Time Circus School, Bristol, and with Philippe Gaulier and Monika Pagneaux in Paris. From 1994-97 he was co-musical director and actor with Karl’s Kuhne Gassenchau in Zurich; member of the Improbable Theatre Lifegame company (1998-2000) including an off-Broadway run. Musical director and composer for: Guy Dartnell’s Would Say Something (1998); acro-dance-theatre Mimbre’s Sprung (2001), Trip-Tic (2003) and The Bridge (2007); site-specific pieces with Graeme Gilmour at Kielder Water Northumberland (2006) and Forth & Clyde Canal Glasgow (2007), and with Phil Supple/The Electric Estate for the National Trust at Cragside Northumberland. Appeared with Petra in Sandi Toksvig’s Christmas Cracker starring Ronnie Corbett at the Royal Festival Hall (2009). TV appearances include Cirque Images’ 2003 series Solstrom for Bravo Cable Network and BBC2 Hyperdrive.

Director of Fabulous Bäckström Brothers, a clown opera in Helsinki (2014), and Big Bang Siegfried with Hagen Philharmonic Germany (2016), Enter The Dragons for A&E Comedy (2017). Director of physical comedy for Chichester Festival Theatre’s Mack & Mabel (2015), RSC’s Merry Wives of Windsor (2018) and Tartuffe (2019) and Jack Absolute Flies Again (2022), both for National Theatre. Co-director of Orpheus in the Underworld at Vienna Volksoper operahouse opening 2023.

Emily Coleman
Executive producer, Spymonkey

Emily has been part of Spymonkey since 2014 and works closely with Toby on all areas of the company’s artistic and business development. She project managed the creation and UK and international touring of The Complete Deaths as well as A Christmas Carol and oversees all elements of the company, as well as leading on how we embed equality, diversity and inclusivity in our productions and training programme. Emily is proud to be working with Spymonkey as one of the only project-funded theatre companies in the UK making work consistently on the mid-scale.

As an independent producer she is an advocate for the importance of the independent arts sector and was strategic producer for In Good Company, the Midlands’ flagship artist development programme between 2017-2023 supporting regional theatre makers to thrive alongside a consortium of venues. Emily’s previous work includes making interactive digital experiences and commissioning inspiring, challenging and surprising projects with children and families. She has also worked with The Future is Unwritten Theatre, Bootworks, Hannah Walker and Chris Thorpe and was Press Officer for the comedy and live music venue Komedia between 2010 and 2017. Her previous experience is in venue management at theatres including Komedia, Gardner Arts Centre and Farnham Maltings.

Lucy Bradridge
Associate Artist & Designer

Lucy Bradridge has been an associate artist with Spymonkey since 1998 and has designed all its productions except the recent A Christmas Carol. Her many collaborations with the clown director Cal McCrystal include Alan Ayckbourn’s Mr Whatnot at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Bubonic Play and Hello Dalai for Piggy Nero, Between a Rock and a Hard Place for Cambridge Footlights, and Fitzrovia Radio’s Dracula at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Her design credits also include AutoBoosh for the Mighty Boosh, the clown costume design for Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai and Zumanity, Heroes for Company FZ, Moonjourney by Alice Lowe, New Art Club’s Trials of Hercules, and Gloves On and Our Dancing Feet for the Ragroof Players. Her television credits include Orcadia, and Comedy Lab and The Last Chancers for Channel 4. Her film credits include The Wild and Wycked World of Brian Jones, Out of Water and Queen Bee.

Natasha Britton
Education & Training Officer

Natasha has been working as a freelance Dance Teacher, Project Manager and Education Consultant since 2000. She has experience of designing and delivering bespoke training and education projects and reviewing quality, as well as extensive teaching experience within her speciality of inclusive dance.

Natasha, who is based in Brighton, joined the Spymonkey team in 2020. In addition to her role at Spymonkey she is the Co Founder & Artistic Director of Parable Dance and takes on other short term Project Management and consultancy work.

Natasha has developed the training and outreach offers for a number of arts organisations including Parable Dance, Magpie Dance, Rounded Rhythm and 3ddance. She has been part of education teams for The RAD (Step into Dance), Candoco Dance Company and Richard Alston Dance Company and has delivered projects for organisations including Sadler’s Wells, Trinity Laban, Essex Dance and South East Dance.

Natasha has held a number of teaching and Head of Dance positions in schools and colleges in the South East and worked as Brighton and Hove Council’s Youth Dance Development Officer (maternity cover).

Natasha has a BA (Hons) in Dance Theatre from Trinity Laban and a PGCE in Post Compulsory Education.

Petra Massey
Joint Artistic Director & Performer

BA (Hons) in Performing Arts at Middlesex University. Trained with Philippe Gaulier and John Wright in London.

Joined Swiss action theatre, Karl’s Kuhne Gassenchau (KKG) in 1996 for Grand Paradis, S.T.E.I.N.B.R.U.C.H (1997), and Stau in 1998. In 1999 she headlined with KKG on tour with Circus Knie. She starred in Cirque Images’ series Solstrom (2003) for Bravo TV. Performed in Zumanity – Another Side of Cirque du Soleil at the New York New York Hotel Casino, Las Vegas, 2003-05, and at the Barbican in “Office Party Xmas 2007”, which transferred to the Pleasance London in 2011.

Starred in two seasons of the BBC comedy sci-fi Hyperdrive, 2006-07 as regular crew member “Sandstrom” the enhanced human, and appears in season 2 of ‘Miranda’, and Comedy Cuts & Headcases for ITV (2008-2009).

Hosted and performed for the German based dinner theatre ‘Palazzo Productions’ in Amsterdam with Spymonkey (2008/09) and Stuttgart (2010)

Director for Wet Picnic (2008-11), The Two Wrongies (2010-11), Swank (2011), Hijinx Theatre (2012), Extant (2012), Naive Dance (2013), Slightly Fat Features (2012-14), Likely Story (2014) slapstick consultant for the film installation Trip Hazard (2013)

Petra performed in ‘Never Try this at Home’ (2014) with Told by An Idiot directed by Paul Hunter at Birmingham Rep, Traverse Edinburgh, Sheffield Studio and Soho Theatre and ‘The Bee’ a production conceived by Japan’s celebrated director and playwright Hideki Noda in Paris, Luxembourg and Germany in 2014. Member of Shakespeare’s Globe 2015 acting company, performing Mistress Overdone in Dominic Dromgoole’s ‘Measure For Measure’ and Chorus Leader in Adele Thomson’s ‘Oresteia’.

Currently starring as Boozy Skunkton, host of Spiegelworld’s Atomic Saloon at The Venetian, Las Vegas.

Stephan Kreiss
Associate Artist & Performer

Stephan joined the company in 2000 and was a core member until his death in 2022. He co-created and performed in STIFF, COOPED, ZUMANITY for CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, BLESS, LOVE-IN, MOBY DICK, OEDIPUSSY and THE COMPLETE DEATHS.

Stephan trained with Philippe Gaulier & Monika Pagneux, Atelier International de l’Acteur (Paris 1985/89) and finished his drama studies with a degree (Vienna 1990/93).

Theatre credits in Austria and Vienna include: Theatre YBY in Salzburg: ‘Hello, We Must Be Going’ (The Marx Brothers) directed by Jos Houben/ Johnny Hutch. He extensively toured his one-man-show: ‘Der Legendäre Lustige’ through Austria (1998-2001). His UK work includes the Right Size’s ‘Penny Dreadful’ (1993) and with Theatre Sans Frontieres (1995-98).

He appeared as Colin Chapman in the ‘Jochen Rindt Opera’, Salzburg Festival (2009), worked with the Young RSC in ‘King Lear’ (2010) and David Pugh Productions (2012). He performed for the german based dinner theatre ‘Palazzo Productions’ in Amsterdam with Spymonkey (2008/09), Stuttgart (2010) and for the last three seasons Stephan co-directed their shows in Berlin (2011), Vienna (2012) and Stuttgart (2013).

2013-2018 he played a lead in ‘Jedermann/Everyman’ at the Salzburger Festspiele directed by Brian Mertes and Julian Crouch. TV appearances include BBC2 ‘Hyperdrive’, ‘Solstrom’ for Bravo Cable Network and various resurfacings on Austrian TV.