Death becomes them 

With stabbings, suicides, severed heads, poisonings, mobbings and a smothering, The Complete Deaths is not your average night at the theatre – but it does promise to be a surprisingly good laugh.

The Hull Truck show arrives courtesy of four-piece physical comedy clown outfit Spymonkey, who rattle off all 74 of William Shakespeare’s onstage deaths throughout one extremely bloody, gutsy performance. Although of course the real death count is 75, if you count the dead fly that Bard buffs may recognise from Titus Andronicus.

“You sometimes have the feeling that you’re watching a very strange Olympic sport,” says Toby Park, one of the UK’s top clowns, University of Hull alumni and founder member of Spymonkey. “We have an LED display that says the name of character and the name of the play, and we get a lady of senior age to sit by the stage knitting and calmly counting off the deaths on a click counter.”

The Complete Deaths sees Spymonkey teaming up with director Tim Crouch to mark this year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The show is for everybody. You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare at all.

They’ve been described, Toby says, as a theatre company for people who don’t like theatre, an accolade he is very happy to hold.

“The show is for everybody,” he says. “You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare at all. We’ve been touring the show since May, and newcomers and Shakespeare scholars have enjoyed it equally.”

Set up in 1998, the Brighton-based Spymonkey gang have toured worldwide – including stints at Sydney Opera House, the West End, Montreal, and a two-year diversion from their own work as “porno clowns” (in Toby’s words) as part of Cirque De Soleil’s Las Vegas Zumanity show.

An alumnus of the University of Hull, Toby regularly runs workshops in the city to share the Spymonkey ethos with theatre practitioners ranging from Northern Lights to Middle Child Theatre.

“Sometimes, people who like theatre only talk to other people who like theatre,” he explains. “We don’t agree with that. The Complete Deaths has flavours of Little Britain, alternative comedy and sketch comedy – people are very comfy with that sort of humour and taste. We muck about with the conventions of theatre, we poke fun at them and we are unashamedly entertaining and accessible.”

The Complete Deaths runs at Hull Truck Theatre from Tuesday 6 September to Saturday 10 September at 7.30pm, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday 10 September. Recommended for ages 14+.