Spymonkey, Toby Park Interview: “We use our instincts… Sometimes they are wrong.”

Spymonkey are bringing The Nuffield alive this week with The Complete Deaths, performing all 74 onstage deaths in the works of William Shakespeare. Performed by Spymonkey and adapted and directed by Tim Crouch (I, Malvolio, An Oak Tree, Adler & Gibb), this new show scales the peaks of sublime poetry, and plumbs the depths of darkest depravity.

Toby Park

Toby Park

I had a phone chat with Spymonkey’s Toby Park (His full name is Tobias John Park) last week while he was on a break from performing at Warwick Arts Centre. Toby is the Managing Artistic Director, composer, performer and all round creative whizz. Park is eager, in our telephone conversation, to acknowledge his considerable admiration for Crouch: “Tim is an astonishingly intelligent man, he applies rigour to his work, both in terms of practice and process; he really challenged us. He was excellent at rooting us in a conceptual framework.”

The Complete Deaths has Crouch’s fingertips all over it; circling elegantly around ideas of morality, certainty and complacency of the bourgeois.

So what’s it all about and where did it come from? Park explains: “We wanted to make death a lively and rewarding experience, once Tim had analysed and limited our material to onstage deaths we had a framework from which to proceed. The audiences have really enjoyed it, there have been a lot of young people and students respond to it brilliantly.”

How do they know if something is funny, I ask, we both agree that was a good question. And over the course of touring, how does the ensemble keep the work fresh and alive?

“We use our instincts… Sometimes they are wrong,” he says.

“If it makes us laugh in the rehearsal room and continues to do so after 20-30 times, then we know it is funny. There is a huge challenge in making exciting things spontaneous, we do stuff because it delights us.”

Park’s ability to talk a good show as well as deliver one could make him sound like Bill Kenwright – but nothing could be further from the truth. During our conversation he is conscientious, honest and considered.

Spymonkey’s The Complete Deaths

Before I go, I ask him what he thinks about the furore surrounding Emma Rice, the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe. Rice has been widely criticised for her many reimagining of Shakespeare and accused of ignoring tradition. “Emma saw The Complete Deaths last week when it was in Shoreditch and is a really generous and remarkable woman,” he says

“It’s been interesting at The Globe. A new vision and approach to work using amplification and modernising and adapting text is a good thing for modern audiences. There have been record attendances recorded this year, so she is doing something right. Emma needs the full confidence of her Board of trustees, it’s a fantastic space for revolutionising Shakespeare’s text and I think she’s doing a great job.”

The deaths in Shakespeare range from the Roman suicides in Julius Caesar to the death fall of Prince Arthur in King John; from the carnage at the end of Hamlet to snakes in a basket in Antony & Cleopatra; from Pyramus and Thisbe to young Macduff. With countless stabbings, plenty of severed heads, some poisonings, two mobbings and a smothering, what’s not to love.

“We know the people of Southampton will be astonished and delighted, there are moments of hilarity and we can’t wait to get in front of those audiences.”

The Complete Deaths

Adapted and directed by Tim Crouch

Dates: 11 – 15 OCTOBER 2016

Tickets: £10.00, £16.00, £20.00, £25.00

Suitable for ages 14+

Tickets are available from the Nuffield Box Office 023 8067 1771 or online at nuffieldtheatre.co.uk.