Fills Monkey: We Will Drum You
(The Grand, The Pleasance, Edinburgh. 28 August 2022. Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Live Review by Fiona Mactaggart.)
When the electric saw made its appearance, I did wonder if the Monkeys might have gone too far. However, it turns out that the use of such appliances is all just a part of their stage-craft which has been honed over years of performances worldwide. We were all quite safe. Or…to put it another way…it was SO Edinburgh Fringe!
This adrenaline and serotonin-bath of a one-hour Fringe show entailed French drummers Sébastien Rambaud and Yann Coste using multiple, often eccentric or homemade instruments as their percussion armoury while regularly gravitating back to the two humongously big drum kits which dominated the stage. Towards the end of the show they took turns to deliver impressive drum solos, leading one to wonder how thrilling a straightforward concert from them might have been.
However, this was to be an ear-splitting, full-throttle, non-stop percussion clown-show, very tightly choreographed (thank you Director, Quebecois Daniel Brière), the brief blasts of lights, sometimes strobes, often emphasising the rhythmic jokes. The audience too was generally very quick on the uptake as the highly-synchronized Monkeys played brief snatches of numerous well-known drum anthems (Queen, Metallica, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins…) on everything from plastic dishwasher mops and foam swim noodles to food whisks. The pre-programmed fluffy duck and electric drum-heads (animal noises) and a plastic washing-up basin drum-hat were probably this humble drummer’s whimsical favourites.
This show was patently a major hit for the many children in the audience – although the adults were having just as much fun, judging by their almost constant laughter – and hopefully may lead to some of the children present taking up the drums.
Fills Monkey certainly seem like a winning mixture: superb percussion playing made to look easy, physical clowning and clever mime (not a single word was uttered throughout this performance), educational nous – coming down from the stage to engage with the audience, pitting half the audience against the other half in body percussion play-offs, and the constant sheer silliness. The show ended on a particular high, even by their own standards, with a ‘rave’ of electronic beats and fabulous lightwork which brought virtually the whole audience to its feet.
And whereas no limbs were lost during this bravura performance, it’s a safe bet that more than a few pairs of drumsticks are still unaccounted for.
Fiona Mactaggart lives in Edinburgh and writes about music on Scottishjazzspace.co.uk