Review: The Hartlepool Monkey - Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre

The cast members bring Napoleon to life through movement and sound.
The cast members bring Napoleon to life through movement and sound.

The big question was, just how would a play about the Hartlepool monkey hanging legend actually go down with the townsfolk of Hartlepool?

Well, on the evidence of this performance at a packed Town Hall Theatre, very well indeed.

The Hartlepool Monkey ended its nationwide tour in the very town that inspired the play about how we infamously hung the monkey and it was rapturously received by the hometown audience.

The production has been created by theatrical company Gyre and Gimble, the team behind the innovative puppetry in the award-winning War Horse.

And what they did for equines in that production they more than equal for simians in this, by bringing the Hartlepool monkey to mischievous life onstage.

The capacity audience reacted with knowing humour to the local references such as the amusing opening song, Nothing Ever Happens in Hartlepool.

And the running joke about Middlesbrough throughout the play continued to raise many a laugh at the expense of our neighbours south of the river.

The play is brilliantly performed by the top-drawer cast and superbly augmented by excellent staging and atmospheric lighting.

It was great to see such a outstanding production as this in the confines of this theatre, and so thoroughly appreciated by its audience.

The legend is brought up to date by touching upon modern day fears of xenophobia ignited by the whole Brexit referendum debate.

Who would have thought that 200 years later that wee monkey would still be stirring controversy?

Maybe someone should now make a film of the legend - are you watching, Ridley Scott?