HANNAH MIRSKY has a lot of fun with a play that blurs the boundaries between childhood and adulthood.
Corpus Playroom, Tues 22nd – Sat 26th October, 7pm, £5/6
Have you heard of the ‘manchild’? Or, in fact, the ‘womanchild’? They’re the words, coined by more unsympathetic observers, to refer to our generation of young adults. We are, apparently, unable to grow up, spending all our time wearing onesies and sponging off mum and dad. So we should all thank God for Monkey Bars, the play that proves we’re not so much like children after all.*
This is a play in which young people who look even more professional that you and me (they wear suits and heels and everything) speak the words of schoolchildren. The actors create plenty of situations from adult life – having a drink at the pub, a crowded commute, a job interview – but when they open their mouths, they’re talking about that weird kid in class who sings to his jelly. It’s a great premise, and made even more effective by the stylish set, all monochrome and sparse Swedish furniture, but with splashes of orange to remind you there’s a fun side to all this.
The result is uproariously funny. A scene in which the words of two young boys are put into the mouths of old men lamenting the state of today’s youth had the audience in hysterics, and a job interview involving bubblegum monsters is equally amusing. The cast are adept at creating, in an instant, a clear situation from adult life, and in maintaining their character convincingly even when they’re talking about sweeties. The few sections that are delivered by a single actor do tend to be performed in a slightly more childlike way, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it reminds the audience of the vulnerability of the speakers, and is a break from the bustling grown-up world that dominates the show.
I think this play might have been trying to say something about the relationship between adults and children, but I’m not really sure what. That we should listen to children more? That we’re not so different from them? That we’re very different indeed? Once in a while a line jolts you into thinking about something, but for the most part Monkey Bars is a glorified youtube video, showing you the cute things kids say in as funny and accessible a way as possible. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There aren’t many shows, in Cambridge especially, which are as much fun to watch as this one.
*Yes, I know there was a Onesie Appreciation Society at the Fresher’s Fair, but let’s gloss over that for now.