This Korean musical is about an explorer who goes into the jungle seeking special monkeys to be harvested for organ donations. But he’s embraced by the cheeky creatures, and soon goes native. In costumes that are urban streetwear meets tribal garb meets monkey-suit, performers scamper around the stage with a mix of acrobatic tumbling, breakdance and martial arts moves. All to a soundtrack of live a capella singing and beatboxing.
Monkey Dance is absolutely as batshit as it sounds. When it works, it’s exhilarating. Their physical skills are impressive, especially in super-energetic dance numbers, with the ‘monkeys’ spinning wildly in the air. The onstage voice orchestra of four, accompanied only by a bassist, create a lushly layered sound – but also boast sharp beatboxing skills.
But too often, this bizarre musical is exhaustingly, annoyingly hyperactive. There’s a lot of shrill shrieking and scrappy capering, with the plot stretched very thin – one song about which monkey has bad breath seems to go on for an eternity. There may be a culture gap when it comes to the humour – particularly in the case of an OTT, irritating clowning figure. And something is definitely lost in translation when it comes to the lyrics of the occasional sappy, big-emotion songs; projected above the stage in English, they’re rendered gobbledegook (“Lovely dancing… with a bite of golden light.” Anyone?)
If you’re looking to tick ‘wacky show you’d only see in Edinburgh!’ off your list, this will do the job. But beware: it may also send you bananas.