Chocolate MonkeyWritten and performed by John-Paul Hussey, and directed by Lucien Savron, Chocolate Monkey  is currently enjoying its fifth season, and its popularity is not hard to understand. A skilled actor, mimic and story-teller, Hussey performs his own writing with energy and deft authority, if somewhat broadly, aided by well-planned changes of pace and mood, and ably assisted by an excellent sound and lighting design.

So far, so good. The subject, however, is something else. What is this show about? Something to do with coming to live in Melbourne, a relationship breaking down, losing weight, trying to stage a show, meeting all sorts of weird and wonderful characters, interspersed by good (but surprising, and hardly logical) imitations of Sean Connery and Kevin Costner… Serendipity, chance, eccentricity, the strangeness of life’s twistings and turnings… it’s all there. To call this rambling and often inconsequential entertainment a grab-bag is, therefore, probably to mistake its identity, those snakes are never going to be tied up. Of course, once you surrender to its skittering, scatter-gun, where’s it going-who cares? manner, there’s some real entertainment to be had, most notably a hilarious sequence about a job on the Metropolitan Train Network, and the need for its workers to have ballast, an excuse for Hussey to engage in a wild, irritable, amazed stream-of-consciousness rave worthy of Beckett or Perelman. It is refreshing to see a show so casually contemporary in its references, and not trying too hard or obviously in the process. Emotionally, like many shows which highlight versatility, imitation, the constant use of voice, along with abrupt and often unnecessary changes of mood or pace, Chocolate Monkey is pretty much horizontal, the breadth it seeks  - and achieves - is certainly at the expense of depth. All that said, you could do much worse than catch this original and skilled, if somewhat baffling, piece in its last week.

Store Room Theatre Workshop presents  
The Amazing Business’
Chocolate Monkey

Venue: the Arts Centre, BlackBox | St Kilda Road, Melbourne  
Dates: Jan 31 – Feb 18, 2007
Previews: Jan 31 – Feb 1 | Season Feb 2-18  
Times: Tues – Sat @ 8pm (Sat matinee 2pm), Sun @ 6pm
Tickets: Adults $27 / Concession $19 / Previews $15
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166,, the Arts Centre Box Office or at the door