Theatre review: Monkey Nuts

Posted: September 18, 2011 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

Monkey Nuts, Written by Geraldine Naidoo. Starring Matthew Ribnick.  At the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until 1 October at 20h15.  ASTRID STARK reviews.  first published in Cape Times

Imagine having only two friends on Facebook. One of them being a monkey called Claude. Imagine arriving at work one hour and fifty-five minutes early because you want to save fuel by not getting stuck in rush hour traffic. Matthew Ribnick’s character, Edgar, is this kind of man. His entire existence revolves around getting freebies and obsessively entering every imaginable competition on the radio and in the printed media. Edgar, by day a bank teller, knows the best price for groceries at any given time, at any given store.

Matthew Ribnick in Monkey Nuts photo by Louis Chetty

During the elections, Edgar took full advantage of Wimpy’s offer of a free coffee upon showing-off his ink stained fingers. He visited 20 different cafes in one day, “And I did not sleep for two days,” Edgar laments. Nurturing his bizarre hobbies means Edgar has no time for friends. Naturally he declares that he has need of them, hence the monkey in a pet shop being his only friend, in real life, and on Facebook. There is something so sad and tragic about this character as he wildly fluctuates between euphoria and melancholy. The lyrics to a Beatles song comes to mind, Eleanor Rigby, died in the church/And was buried along with her name/Nobody came/ Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands/as he walks from the grave/No one was saved.

However, when Edgar wins a spectacularly luxurious trip to Italy, his life is radically altered as he goes on a comical journey trying to make three friends to go with him. This is where his character becomes a bit more Forrest Gump and less Eleanor Rigby.

Matthew Ribnick who is also known for his award-winning performances in Hoot and The Chilli Boy, again tackles a string of characters in this comedy written by Geraldine Naidoo. Among some of his characters are the funny and slightly sleazy Bollywood karaoke owner, the ruffian turned-yoga instructor, and the gay personal banker. There is also the wannabee actor with a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome which has him spitting out obscene words in mid-sentence.

Ribnick effortlessly slips in and out these characters, dipping with glee into the diverse accents and cultures that makes South Africa so interesting. His props are mostly different hats that he flops on his head to portray the various characters. He even has a go at belting out a dash of opera and he does a winning Bollywood number complete with the typically outrageous dance movements.

At first Monkey Nuts’ storyline seems a bit chaotic as we are introduced to fairly random characters, however Naidoo’s clever writing soon reveals the common thread which binds all the characters together. Critics have called his show ‘An engaging laugh-a-minute comedy’, and, ‘The funniest comedy of the year’, however I would rather call it a poignant and gently humorous story of an underdog who finally gets his day through an unexpected opportunity, which forces him to truly connect with people.

I walked out of the theatre not only impressed by his talent and skill but also pondering the opportunities that the world hold for us if we just get one break and if we are not afraid of connecting with complete strangers. It is beautifully written and performed with vigour and obvious passion by Ribnick who, not much unlike his character, seems obsessed with obtaining perfection in multiple disciplines. Ribnick has set himself some serious goals, “The deadline is my 40th Birthday; the 25th of August 2014,” Ribnick writes. “By that date I must: be ranked among the top ten fencers in the world; be celebrating the success of my first novel; have washboard abs; be able to play the piano with the skill and brilliance of a concert pianist; do perfect splits; have an intricate understanding of musical composition; have memorized William Shakespeare’s Othello from beginning to end; be rated among the top 50 opera tenors in the world and be able to touch the top of my head to the souls of my feet in a yoga back bend known as ‘the camel’.  Ribnick was also in the navy for about three years and he uses this experience, as well as his love for music, and his passion for yoga in his various sketches.

Matthew . photo by Louis Chetty

Shows run weekly from Tuesdays to Saturdays. Ticket prices are R100 for shows from Tuesday to Thursday, and R130 on Fridays and Saturdays. The show is not suitable for persons under the age of 16. Bookings can be made through Computicket or at the Baxter Theatre.

The End

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