Sheffield Theatres and Eclipse Theatre's co-production of Don Evans' One Monkey Don't Stop No Show, currently playing in the Crucible Studio, Sheffield, is one of those shows where everyone - cast, crew and audience - has decided to have a good time, and that's what they have.
The fast-paced comedy centres on the middle-class Harrison family, preacher father Avery, social climbing wife Myra and son Felix, living in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Their comfortable family life is disrupted by the arrival of niece Beverley, her guardian Caleb and Felix's girlfriend Lil' Bits who cause them to ask questions about sex, love, race, class and identity. The play's central theme, about people trying to hide 'who they really are' is explored through hilarious dialogue as the characters dismantle each other's defences.
This production sets the action as part of a Cosby Show-style sitcom, filmed in front of a studio audience - this sense is heightened by 'on air' signs during the action, and the presence the stage manager, dressed in the late-70s/early-80s fashion of the rest of the cast, and wearing the headphones and radio mic of a TV producer. She treats the audience before as a TV producer would do, exhorting people to applaud and cheer before acts. This sense of fun means that even when there was a technical hitch in a set change, she and the crew made it feel as if the hitch were simply part of the performance.
All seven cast members were excellent, giving high-energy performances that were hilarious, but never unbelievable - revealing the hidden depths beneath the public facades the characters put on. Each had their moment to shine, with Jocelyn Jee Esien providing many of the laughs as Myra, and Ayesha Antoine providing a magnificent performance as Beverley, showing a real talent for drama and comedy and acting as the soul of the show.
The only slight quibble was that because the dialogue is so fast-paced, occasionally lines became lost under the laughter of the audience - but that there was so much laughter says a lot - One Monkey Don't Stop No Show is a riotous night out.
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show is at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield until Sat 24th September.