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ARTS - Man, Love, and the Monkeyboys

Author: Darryn King
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
In a way, male behaviour hasn’t evolved that much from the behaviour of our ape ancestors. One way or another, we’re still beating our fists against our chests and flinging poo around. Caleb Lewis’s play Men, Love And The Monkeyboy is about, well, trying to evolve. Darryn King swings through the trees with director Christopher Hurrell.

One of the ideas behind the play is that men behave like apes – do you think there’s a lot of truth in that-
I think it’s a clever, cute little metaphor that taps into a preconceived idea of what blokedom can be like. There’s a lot of research that suggests that human instinct, just like the human body, was forged in the Stone Age, and of course technology has outstripped evolution – so now you’ve got these nervous systems in both men and women that date back to a period when we were much more like the other apes.

Can you tell us a little bit about the story of the play-
Basically the central character is Phillip. He’s studying gorillas, he’s a primatologist, but he doesn’t have much of a life aside from his studies – what life he does have seems to be hanging out with his father and his mates, ‘the boys’ in the story. His father is the archetype of Aussie tough love, really. One of the main features of that over the years – apart from being unfaithful to his wife and not being terribly understanding of his children – has been a love of practical jokes. Any excuse to play a trick on anyone, including his poor son. The opening scene of the play is one of these elaborate practical jokes being put into action. This has been going on since Phillip was a small child and he’s pretty psychologically scarred by the experience of these at times terrifying practical jokes. He’s a bit shell-shocked at the start of the play and realises that he needs to escape the influence of his dad and his mates… but he’s too scared to do so.
He’s got a mission to escape the oppressive influence of his father – who would really like him to turn out to be a fireman and fuck all the pretty girls.

You’ve worked very closely with Caleb on the scripts for his other plays – can you tell us about that-
The full story is Caleb and I first met when we started uni in Adelaide. At that time he was a stand-up comedian and a bit of a terror – a big fan of practical jokes himself, he was more like one of the boys of this play than he was the lead character. For those reasons he wasn’t one of my favourite people when we first met – I thought he was a bit of a clown. But over the years, through studies and traveling the world, he’s become quite a different person to when I first met him. He’s become this kind of soulful, passionate storyteller with desires to write on a large human scale and great intensity and depth and insight.

When I read this script I recognised that muck-about voice that I’d known from the outset, from his stand-up comedy 10 years ago, and here he was now reclaiming that voice and applying it as a tool to this much grander ambition for storytelling.

It’s funny though, right-
Its form is a black satire, I suppose, and the triumph of it is that it moves beyond that. It has brief, small elements of tragedy by the end, and a tragic plotline in a comedy will always sit between making you want to cry and evoking wry, familiar laughter. The first act is straight-out ball-tearing comedy. It’s hilarious, really – but it becomes something a little more than merely hilarious by the end.

WHAT: Men, Love and the Monkeyboy at Darlinghurst Theatre / Riverside Theatre, Parramatta
WHEN: Thursday 27 March – Saturday 19 April / Tuesday 22 April – Saturday 26 April