When a group came into his show mistaking it for the one on next door, Matt Panesh, aka Money Poet, didn’t bat an eyelid. Instead, keeping in character as Homer, he extemporised a few lines of perfect verse to direct them to the correct location. It was a moment of sublime genius in a show full of moments to treasure.
Somewhere between a stand-up routine and a spoken word performance, Monkey Poet’s Murder Mystery starts as an account of Panesh’s most recent spoken word tour of America. With a jaunty pace, he tells of his surprisingly successful gig in Indianapolis - turns out that contrary to stereotype Midwesterners are open to some Bush-bashing - and a disastrous one in Los Angeles. Panesh has a talent for capturing voices which is evident from the off. From the moment that he swung effortlessly from concerned London friend to offended redneck it was apparent we were in the hands of a master.
After a bewildering visit to a Los Angeles massage parlour, things take a surreal turn as Panesh is invited to a party which turns out to be a veritable Who’s Who of poets past and present. With Dylan Thomas as his guide Panesh is introduced to a Brummie Shakespeare who advises him that ‘fanny is funny’, propositioned by an effete Wilde and insulted by T.S. Eliot. There was a discipline to each performance and a clarity of thought that made each character recognisable from the shortest of snippets. Panesh was aided too by a strong physicality; his bellicose limping Byron was a particular treat.
All these voices did occasionally drown out Panesh’s own. He showed at the beginning he could be hilariously funny just as himself and I would have liked to have heard more of what this poet made of the literary pantheon before him. As a Dorothy Parker fan I also had a slight niggle with the way she was portrayed; in reality she was far from the wimpy wallflower as played by Panesh.
Though he claims to be a ‘doing poet’ rather than one who studies poetry there is clearly a substantial body of knowledge and thought behind this show. Panesh wears his learning lightly, casually and unpretentiously throwing out allusions to create a richly textured piece which can be enjoyed on many levels. I feel sorry for the lost group who left - they missed a cracker of a show.