ED2013 Interviews ED2013 Week1 Edition ED2013 Words & Events

Monkey Poet: Spoken word, actually

By | Published on Tuesday 6 August 2013

Monkey Poet

A regular feature of the Edinburgh Fringe since 2009, Monkey Poet has received countless numbers (well, they probably are countable, but still, there are lots) of rave reviews for his clever and funny spoken word shows. So it’s probably about time we had a chat with him, about the two shows he has on at Edinburgh this time, and lots of other stuff besides.

CM: You have two shows on at the Fringe, one in the spoken word section and one listed under theatre. How do these shows differ, and what makes each belong to the relevant category?
MP: Well the theatre show is just that, a solo-show in which I play multiple roles in a ‘dramedy’ (and if you need a horrible descriptive term, that’s a belter). The spoken word show is a mixture of stand-up and poetry, which I call ‘stand up poetry’. Pub quiz info – apparently that phrase was coined in San Francisco in the Sixties.

CM: What’s the theatre show, ‘Love Hurts Actually’, actually about?
MP: It’s the unofficial sequel to the film ‘Love Actually’. I play Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Martine McCutcheon and, weirdly, even the late Sir John Gielgud, among others. It’s broad comedy but it has a few points, and not just about the nature of love. I mean, can you name a sympathetic working class character written by Richard Curtis? Not Baldrick in Blackadder or Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill. He tends to write the working class as dicks… he might even do it subconsciously. So the show is a reaction to that.

CM: What can we expect from the spoken word show?
MP: I cover topics like nationalism, politics, sex and sexuality, racism, religion, class and so on, and in an entertaining way. It’s got to be funny though; there’s nothing worse than seeing someone stand on a soapbox beating the audience round the head with a big moral stick. Also, in the main my punchlines rhyme.

CM: Given your reputation for being hilarious, it would seem you are tiptoeing a fine line between spoken word and comedy. Have you not been tempted to list yourself in the comedy section at the Festival?
MP: Crikey, thanks. That’s a nice reputation to have. With the listing I used to do exactly that, but back then there wasn’t a spoken word section at the Fringe. Thanks to Superbard, and a few others, now there is, and it’s growing. The beauty of spoken word is that it can be every bit as funny as comedy but you’re also given the freedom to take a darker or more serious turn than what a comedy crowd would usually expect. You’re able to play with levels a bit more.

CM: I think (I might be wrong, though) that you first came up to the Fringe in around 2009? What’s the impetus for returning?
MP: You’re right. This is year five. There really is no place on Earth like Edinburgh during the Fringe. At 5 o’clock in the morning the streets are as busy as Manchester’s on a Saturday afternoon. You can see every performance style, talk shop, embrace the local cuisine of deep fried haggis. And you meet some really great people here.

Last year I turned up with no accommodation and asked the audience to help me out, as I did a couple of years previously. Aside from one night on Arthur’s Seat and another on a park bench, I was really looked after by a variety of Angels (shout outs to Aaron, Vicky, Dave and Emman!)

On a purely business footing, good reviews here help me get bookings throughout the rest of the year. There is a danger, though, that it’s a bit hermetically sealed. Like you forget there’s a world outside. A couple of years ago I was telling audiences, “with this Government, there’ll be riots in a year, mark my words!” No one said to me “have you seen the news…?” It was only when I was in a chippy with a telly in the corner that I saw England had set itself on fire.

CM: You’ve won a number of awards. Obviously that must be very gratifying, but do those sorts of achievements have a tangible impact on your career?
MP: They double as masturbatory aids for the ego. Just joshing. They were instrumental in my decision to jack in the day job, so yes, definitely.

CM: You’ve recently published a book; any plans for more? Can you see yourself taking on other literary formats?
MP: Yes, I think so (quick plug: the book is ‘Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Simian’ and is available from Amazon, Waterstones or my website ). I’ve been working on a film script and a novel in my spare time, but who knows what’ll happen with those.

CM: What sort of things do you go to see when you are at the Fringe?
MP: As much as I can. Regardless of style, substance and subject – Edfringe is full of everything. I try and avoid the big shows or acts as they’ll usually tour anyway. It’s the things I know I’ll only get to see in Edinburgh that excite me.

Monkey Poet performed at The Banshee Labyrinth as part of PBH’s Free Fringe at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

LINKS: www.monkeypoet.co.uk | twitter.com/monkey_poet