shows / The Frogs

The Frogs

The Frogs

by Carl Grose & Spymonkey with massive apologies to Aristophanes.

Spymonkey’s Toby Park and Aitor Basauri are at the end of the road. The other Spymonkeys have taken themselves off to a better place, and they’re about to call it a day. To their rescue rides mega-rich philanthropist Patty Getty and her theatrically ambitious niece Pamela with an offer they can’t refuse! But does this beleaguered comedy duo have what it takes to perform the classic Greek comedy The Frogs at Patty’s legendary amphitheatre in Hollywood?
 
The Frogs is a delirious trip through Greek theatre, a monster-filled Underworld and classic vaudeville double acts. Promising more existential angst than Clash of the Titans and more bronzed oiled torsos than Waiting For Godot – oh, and there’s a jumping chorus of tap-dancing frogs!

Shot through with Spymonkey’s uniquely surreal clownesque comedy that has delighted audiences from Northampton to the Vegas Strip and Sydney Opera House, and reuniting them with writer Carl Grose (Spymonkey’s Oedipussy, Kneehigh, Grinning Man), The Frogs draws on B-movie horror, classic vaudeville, music hall, a jumping chorus of tap-dancing frogs, puppetry and gloriously silly, inventive design by Spymonkey’s designer Lucy Bradridge. Directed by Joyce Henderson (comedy direction on Bleak Expectations, Noises Off West End 2022)

What are you waiting for? Hop to it!

 

★★★★
“As engaging as it is audacious”
THE OBSERVER

 

“Inspiring”
THE TELEGRAPH

 

★★★★
“Totally crazy but incredibly funny”
REVIEWS HUB

 

★★★★
“Painfully funny.”
LIBBY PURVES THEATRECAT

 

“Impeccable timing, routinely bringing the house down”
THE STAGE

 

Touring Information

ROYAL & DERNGATE NORTHAMPTON

Friday 19th January – Saturday 3rd February 2024

Book via the Royal & Derngate website

Access Performances:

Audio Described & Touch Tour – Thu 1 February 6.30pm
BSL Sign Integrated – Tue 30 January 7.30pm & Fri 2 February 7.30pm (Includes BSL Interpreted Post-show Talk)
Captioned – Tue 25 January 2.30pm
Access Performance Information

 

KILN THEATRE LONDON

Thursday 8th February – Saturday 2nd March 2024

Book via Kiln Theatre website

BSL Interpreted Performance: 15 Feb, 7.30pm
Captioned Performance: 22 Feb, 7.30pm
Touch Tour: 29 Feb, 6pm
Audio Described Performance: 29 Feb, 7.30pm

Credits

A Royal & Derngate and Spymonkey co-production

by Carl Grose & Spymonkey (with massive apologies to Aristophanes)

Performed by Aitor Basauri, Toby Park & Jacoba Williams

Directed by Joyce Henderson

Design by Lucy Bradridge

Lighting Design by Amy Mae Smith

Sound Design by Beth Duke

Choreography by Simone Murphy

Original music by Toby Park 

Access Dramaturgy by Deepa Shashtri

BSL Integrated Interpretor – Becky Barry

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant – Sharon White

Community Coordinator – Helen Clifford

Spymonkey Producer – Emily Coleman

Royal & Derngate Producer – Remy Moynes

Poster Illustration – The Red Dress

Special thanks to Danusia Samal and Ayesha Antoine for their contribution to the creation of The Frogs.

Video Gallery

Production Photos

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.

Joyce Henderson

Director

Trained with Jacques Lecoq, Paris. 

Directing credits include Crave (Julie Cunninghame and Company), ‘Revolting’ by Simon Startin for Exposure Disability Arts Festival, The Great Booboo for Theatre Cap-a-Pie, Kicking the Moon Circus Company, and numerous student productions at Circus Space, CSSD, E15, GSA and Rose Bruford Acting Schools. 

Company Movement credits include: Bleak Expectations (Criterion), Noises Off (Lyric Hammersmith), Amedée (Birmingham Rep), King Lear (Old Vic), Mother Courage (NT), Julius Caesar (Barbican), The Taming of the Shrew & A Midsummer Night’s Dream (both for RSC), The Misanthrope & King Lear (both for West Yorkshire Playhouse), Grimm Tales for Leicester Haymarket, and assisting on the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, London 2012. Opera movement work includes, The Marriage of Figaro (Aix Festival), Between Worlds (Barbican), Dido and Aeneas (Vienna Festival, Opera Comique and DNO), Messiah (ENO), Death in Venice (ENO & La Monnaie Bruxelles), Fidelio (Glyndebourne), Alfred (Early Opera Company) and Mazeppa (UCL Opera). 

Acting credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Holland Park), Draw me Close (NT), Medea (West End & US tour), The Cherry Orchard (Birmingham Rep), Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare’s Globe), Volpone (NT), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (NT), Emil Wolk’s Sherlock Holmes in Trouble (Manchester Royal Exchange), Paper Walls (Scarlet Theatre), The Servant of Two Masters (Belgrade Coventry) and Flight to Finland with The Right Size. Film: Benediction, Suffragette, Burke and Hare, The Queen, About a Boy and Stella Does Tricks.

Joyce is an associate of Complicité, appearing in the original productions of The Street of Crocodiles and The Magic Flute. For Complicité Creative Learning, Joyce directed Barking Nuns (Sydney Russell School and the Barbican), and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (CSSD).

Beth Duke

Sound Designer

Selected credits include Retrograde (Kiln Theatre), Wishmas: A Fantastical Christmas Adventure (Secret Group), Jack & The Beanstalk (Stratford East), What It Means (Wilton’s Music Hall), The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (Watermill Theatre),Strategic Love Play (Belgrade Theatre/UK Tour), The Trial of Josie K (Unicorn Theatre), Akedah (Hampstead Theatre), Beauty and the Beast (Mercury Theatre), Amma VR Experience (Tara Theatre), Death Drop: Back in the Habit (Garrick Theatre, and UK Tour); A Single Man (Park Theatre); Alice in Wonderland (Mercury Theatre);The Importance of Being Earnest (English Touring Theatre); Bridgerton (Secret Cinema); Mad House (Ambassador’s Theatre); Mog the Forgetful Cat (Royal Derngate and Old Vic); Robin Hood (Bristol Old Vic); Death Drop (Garrick Theatre, Criterion Theatre and UK Tour); J’Ouvert (Harold Pinter Theatre& BBC); One Jewish Boy (Trafalgar Studios, West End & UK Tour),Typical Girls (Sheffield Crucible Theatre); Scenes with Girls; Living Newspaper (Royal Court Theatre); Isla (Theatre Clwyd); Tuck Shop West End (Garrick Theatre); Patricia Gets Ready (Pleasance Theatre, UK Tour); GentlemenPipelineA Fantastic Bohemian; Lovesick(Arcola Theatre), Reimagining (Almeida Theatre), Last Easter (Orange Tree Theatre); Mission (The Big House); One Under with Graeae Theatre Company (Plymouth Drum &UK tour), Superstar; Anything is Possible if You Think Hard Enough About It (Southwark Playhouse), New Views (Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre), Silence (Mercury Theatre/UK tour); Together, Not the Same(Sadler’s Wells Theatre); Great Expectations (Geffrey Museum); The State of Things (Brockley Jack Studio); As associate – The Manor (Lyttelton Theatre); Gunpowder Immersive Experience (Tower Hill); War of the Worlds Immersive Experience (56 Leadenhall Street); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Tobacco Factory); Apollo 13 (Original Theatre Company); Dust (New York Theatre Workshop).

Jacoba Williams

Performer

Trained at Italia Conti Academy of the Arts & National Youth Theatre.

Theatre work includes: The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, The Fir Tree, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and Our Verse in Time (all for Shakespeare’s Globe London). Where do we go from Here? (PentabusTheatre), Alice in the Universe (Oxford Playhouse), Bogeyman (The Pleasance, Ed Fringe), Before I was a Bear (Bunker Theatre& Soho Theatre), Gulliver’s Travels (Unicorn Theatre), Love Dance (Chiswick Playhouse), The Snow Queen (The Stephen Joseph Theatre), When the Sea Swallows us Whole (Vaults Festival), Queens of Sheba – winner of The Stage Award (Vaults Festival, New Diorama, Underbelly, Camden People’s Theatre).

Short Film includes: The Vest, Highlife, Montague, Cleo’s Choice and Expiry Date.

Radio includes: Vergil (Audible) and Precious Little Thing (BBC Radio 4 & Talawa).

Katie Bosomworth

Company Stage Manager

Graduating from Northampton University, Katie has stage managed a vast variety of productions and projects for over 20 years. Starting in the stage management team at The Royal, Northampton 1999- 2005. Katie then started her freelance career with companies such as Leicester Haymarket, Lyric Hammersmith, Vesturport, Kilworth House and London Bubble. In 2009 she became resident company stage manager at Derby Theatre (Derby LIVE) Returning in 2013 to her freelance career, she has stage managed a wide variety of touring productions, regional theatre, outdoor performances, rural touring productions and children’s theatre nationally and internationally. These have included work for companies such as Sheffield Theatres, Everyman Liverpool, Nottingham Playhouse, Curve Leicester, Colchester Mercury, Leeds City Varieties, Ipswich New Wolsey, York Theatre Royal, Bamboozle Theatre Company, The Sparks Arts for Children, and Farnham Maltings. Katie enjoys creating performances for audiences in both tradition and non-tradition theatre settings and spaces but always with inclusivity at its heart.

Rehearsal Photos

Photography Brighton rehearsal images by Manuel Harlan Dec 2023 / Cornwall Oct 22 & Brighton April 23 by the company

Why The Frogs?

Sometimes working in comedy is really not funny.

In October of 2021 we found ourselves in crisis. Navigating the tragic loss of our great friend and longstanding member Stephan Kreiss in August of that year, we met up with Carl and our producer Emily to talk about a new show. With the fourth member of Spymonkey, Petra Massey, on long-term loan to the variety show she hosts in Las Vegas, we were bereft. After 25 years of being pretty much a four piece ensemble, we were suddenly two.

Spymonkey’s work has always drawn on the specifics of the performers on stage, of where we find ourselves in our personal lives, what makes us laughable or ridiculous or vulnerable in our own particular way. So it felt inevitable that the next show would deal with this particular crisis. If that sounds odd to some, that we’d want to use work as a way of reflecting our collective grief, I’d say that artists do this all the time. If it occupies you that becomes the thing you want to work with. Why would artists who work in comedy do any different?

The things is, how do you make grief the subject of a comedy, and still make it funny? And why choose The Frogs as a starting point?

There are a number of things about Aristophanes’ brilliant and funny play which chime with where we find ourselves right now. The Frogs starts with two idiots setting off on an ill-advised search to reclaim a lost friend. The story of The Frogs begins with the journey of Dionysus, the god of good times, wine and theatre, and his canny servant Xanthias set out to journey into the Underworld to bring back the recently departed great playwright Euripides, and thus facing a series of increasingly brilliant comedic set pieces familiar to any audience in any age – a posh pretentious idiot and his wisecracking servant, disguises, subterfuge, mistaken identities, argumentative zombies, hilarious slapstick beatings, crazy frogs, weird religious cults.

So given the journey that Dionysus and Xanthias undertake, it felt like we could find an interesting overlap with our own situation: two idiots in search of their lost friend, who find some kind of resolution, or letting go.

And of course The Frogs has been around a long time – it’s the oldest surviving double act in theatre literature. It felt to us that The Frogs offered a robust enough framework to carry much of what has occupied Spymonkey’s work during our quarter of a century together: death, ill-judged theatrical ambition, surrealism, absurdity, vaunting imagination, meta-theatre, a dash of musical hall, songs and dance numbers.

And it gives us the opportunity to ask some questions of the play: Can we keep our sense of humour when the world is heating up, both physically and politically? Why does comedic writing – whether that is Aristophanes, Shakespeare, radio comedy, the sitcom – age in a different way than ‘straight’ drama, the tragic or the poetic do not? Why is the tragic so often elevated to ‘high art’ in our culture, and comedy seen as ‘low’.

In the past we have found the challenge of tackling iconic source material an inspiration. Whether that is four idiots attempting to stage one of the great novels in the English language, Moby Dick. Or our attempt to tackle tragedy with Oedipus Rex. Or to perform every death in Shakespeare, as with The Complete Deaths.

So what better way to look at the nature of how comedy works, than having a crack Aristophanes, the oldest comedy writer in the Western canon?

Normally when human beings are unsure of what lies ahead for them, they reach for history. When artists find themselves in the same position they reach for the classics. After all, they are classics for a reason, because they contain something universal that has been handed down to our times. This sense of universality is usually surrounded by other things that are maybe not useful anymore, because the context has changed. Our old stories also carry with them the marks of the ages that created them, and need to be reevaluated for our own times. That’s when its useful to make a new interpretation, or re-write. And when a company works for 25 years doing the same thing it becomes, in its own unique way, a little bit of a classic too, so we too feel the need for a new interpretation.

It’s been a great journey of discovery making this show. It feels like we’ve brought together a hive comedy mind of people to unlock the puzzle that we’ve set ourselves. Our longstanding designer Lucy Bradridge who has designed nearly every Spymonkey show since our inception, and who understands how to make us look beautiful, or spectacular, or very very silly in equal measure. The craftsmanship of writer Carl Grose, who we are working with again since we made Oedipussy in 2012. Director Joyce Henderson, longstanding Complicity associate, who brings her huge experience of movement to the work and has opened our eyes to a whole new world of theatrical possibility. And we welcome the brilliant Jacoba Williams to Spymonkey for the first time – we have laughed like drains with her. And the rest of the team, many of them new to our work, have brought a fresh set of perspectives and ideas.

This morning I went into the Royal & Derngate workshop to fit a 20 foot animated tree frog on Aitor. We’ve been coming here to make shows for 14 years, and the Royal & Derngate workshops are brilliant at making our ridiculous ideas real, it’s like comedy alchemy. You’ve got to come and see it, it is going to be gobsmackingly stupid.


Toby Park, January 2024

Press Quotes

Painfully funny. Self-revealing courage and fearless clowning. Jacoba Williams is magnificent. Aitor, the clever disruptive absurd sidekick, his great bushy beard and flawless wise-fool expressiveness a foil to Park’s air of attempting commonsense and failing. Enjoy.

Aitor Basauri and Toby Park on classic form… Very, very cleverly put together.

Part comedy, part panto, part stand-up, totally crazy but incredibly funny.

A joy.

Toby Park and Aitor Basauri a classic comic double act… Lucy Bradridge’s delirious costumes… Writer Carl Grose follows the structure of the original while cracking open spaces between scenes to reveal a present-day hinterland to the production. This is a crazy backstory, combining an improbable fiction and a true-life tragedy.

Under director Joyce Henderson, the juggling of broad comedy with genuine emotion is almost as engaging as it is audacious, and the actors’ skilfully calibrated “overacting” real fun to watch.

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Spymonkey is resident ensemble company at Royal & Derngate, Northampton.

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