Review: The Monkey’s Paw, The Space, Friday 18th October, 2019.

In a deconsecrated church in the heart of the Isle of Dogs, a commercial radio station is preparing to challenge the broadcasting monopoly of the BBC. They are about to record a dramatisation of W. W. Jacobs’ horror story “The Monkey’s Paw”. The events that transpire are more terrible than the producer’s wildest nightmares …

Storyfleas Theatre (writers Jack Williams and Sara Butler) have created a pastiche radio production, complete with actors en travestie and live sound effects, in an effort to bring W. W. Jacobs’ classic horror story “The Monkey’s Paw” to terrible life in Docklands. The story, for those who don’t know it, revolves around a mummified monkey’s paw that grants the possessor three wishes. The catch is that, though the wishes come true, they come at a previously unregarded and apalling cost. The ‘British Empire Radio Corp.’ has decided to ginger up their radio stars’ performances by providing a property paw to focus on. But is it just a prop? Terrible events ensue and a jolly horrorshow time is had by all.

This was a very stylish production (I particularly admired diva Jordan Baker’s glamorous gown) with a well dressed set, and with tastefully apt performances, particularly from Jordan Baker and Becky Coops as the leads, Ms. Coops sporting a fine Clark Gable ‘tache. It was a lot of fun. Quibbles? A few. The set was impressive but a bit fussy – the actors sat at a table with their mics and a shed-load of stuff including the eponymous monkey’s paw, and dramatically the monkey’s paw should have had more prominence. The switcheroo involving an Indiana Jones lookalike from the British Museum wasn’t clear enough, and the pith helmet and pony-tail ensemble a bit distracting, and (possibly just my issue), Foley artists work on post production for film, improving or clarifying or sometimes replacing field recordings of live sound. Radio production employs sound effects. Jack Foley would have wanted accurate attribution, I’m sure. I also had some doubts about the writers’ priorities. Was this a spoof 30s broadcast or was it a retelling of a horror story? The two threads conflicted, so the horror didn’t quite land and the laughter was a bit uncertain.

That said, it was a very pleasant way to spend an hour, The Space is a fine and welcoming venue, and I will look out for more Storyfleas events with keen anticipation.

3.5 stars.

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