There is something quite exquisite in the way Matthew Ribnick serves up Monkey Nuts. It’s another of those one-man shows where the actor plays a variety of characters, but Ribnick does it so well that he should be collecting several salaries. By LESLEY STONES.
Everything about Ribnick changes as he morphs into another character, quickly adapting his stance, expression, accent and attitude.
The sheer pleasure of watching such a master of the art is only part of the reason why Monkey Nuts is such a scream. All that talent would be wasted if the plot wasn’t equally wonderful.
Comic playwright Geraldine Naidoo has created some ludicrous characters and woven them into an ingenious story where the laughs hit you fast and furiously.
It starts normally enough, with a sad, nerdy bank teller who has no friends, except for the monkey who lives in the local petshop.
For a while I think I’m in for a tragedy, as Edgar the misfit finds his only pleasure from entering competitions and obsessively comparing prices in the supermarkets. Then there’s a giggle, followed by a chuckle, as you realise that Ribnick and Naidoo like and respect this man they have created and are about to let his good times roll.
Soon you’re laughing out loud as Edgar does his strange dances, pulls his pliable face into different shapes and meets some even odder characters.
The pace is unrelenting and the laughs are unstoppable as he hooks up with the telesales man, tries speed dating and bumps into a stranger with Tourette’s syndrome. We meet his vengeful former school bully, and the thoughtful old Indian man whose shop the lonely Edgar used to guard.
There’s an undercurrent of pathos and sympathy for the underdog that adds texture to the tale, making it more than a long laugh that’s quickly forgotten. The clever use of music also adds another touch of variety.
The tale is crafted beautifully, with the disparate characters and their actions all linked together and building like a jigsaw to gives us the full picture. It’s superb storytelling, featuring ordinary South Africans whose odd characteristics are stretched just a little further than the norm. They are people we recognise and normal situations twisted to become absurd.
Some of the ideas are so wacky as the tale builds up into a monkey-rescue mission that reading the plot would be nonsense. But watching the plot is hilarious.
Perhaps the writer and actor are so in synch because they’re married, so she knows what will bring out his abilities best and he knows exactly how to breath her words to life. Their previous co-productions were Hoot and The Chilli Boy, but Monkey Nuts surpasses them.
Ribnick’s timing is immaculate and his willingness to put all he has into this madcap venture pays off gloriously. He couldn’t do this without being willing to make an absolute prat of himself, but just like Edgar, he comes out of it the hero.
Monkey Nuts runs at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Sandton until 10 May. DM
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