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Reviews and Comments

REVIEW from The Circus Report USA circus magazine.

I always admire those who specialize in researching obscure sections of theatrical and circus history, their tenacity and determination to get to the bottom of a facet of entertainment nobody else has ever delved into, and Stockwell is to be praised for his exhaustive research into the subject of Man-Monkeys, men who have dressed up as apes for the entertainment of the public since 1801 and he recounts their history through theatre, circus and films from the Regency theatre stage to recent cinematic blockbusters like “King Kong” and “Planet of the Apes”.

Apparently, the first play to feature an ape as a character was in “La Perouse” which became standard to the repertoire of theatres of the day, and in l825 a French dancer, Mazurier became the sensation of Paris and London by playing the lead in a ballet, “Jocko ou le Singe du Bresil”. An entire sub-genre of drama followed, encompassing the appearance of monkeys or apes, spreading to popular circus acts and America movies.

Many Regency and Victorian performers appeared as man-monkeys and were intertwined with the appearances of great clowns like Grimaldi. A number of leading acrobats and contortionists such as Edward Klischnigg appeared as man-monkeys on the stage and then in the music halls and circuses, and Mr Stockwell brings his research up to date with mention of 20th century circus performers like Fritz Roth, Natal, Norbu and the Gutis who all performed in European and American circuses.

Entertaining, well-written and well-researched, “Man- Monkeys” is certainly a diverting and intriguing new book.
Don Stacey

REVIEW from ENCORE UK showbusiness magazine


I have just finished reading this compelling book. I am not aware of any other publication covering this subject before but, having worked with many actors in skins in scores of Pantos, I was intrigued to find that, for more than two hundred or so years, men dressed as monkeys have been appearing in theatres all over the place.

Some of the characters and their stories are incredible. Imagine falling twenty feet from a broken wire dressed as a gorilla and going back on a couple of days later! Or how about Mr George Conquest who, in one production, appeared and disappeared through more than twenty trapdoors hidden around the stage. Health and safety gone mad!

This is a brilliantly researched book that brings us from the staging of 'A New Grand Historic Pantomime Drama in Two Parts called 'La Perouse; or The Desolate Island' in 1801 at the Covent Garden Theatre which featured a young man called Master Menage playing a chimpanzee, right up to the film War of the Planet of the Apes in 2017. The actors, acrobats, dancers and posture- masters in between, make for a thoroughly interesting read.
Keith Simmons

5.0 out of 5 stars It is clearly the result of excellent research (both theatrical and biographical)
By Independent Researcher on 1 August 2017 Verified Purchase

Alan Stockwell's book comes as no surprise to me because I am very familiar with this particular subject, but from more academic perspectives. The book is richly illustrated, devoting separate chapters to the principal performers. It is clearly the result of excellent research (both theatrical and biographical), and is well written. It will entertain the general reader (for whom I assume it has been principally written) while offering useful material for those (like myself) exploring other aspects of theatre history.

5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book by Alan Stockwell
By Keith Simmons on 14 July 2017

Another great book by Alan Stockwell. Brilliantly researched and with some amazing stories about guys who spent their lives dressing up as monkeys! Some sad ends along with some very successful exponents of the art. Over two hundred years of theatrical men-monkeys. Fascinating!

COMMENT from the Author:
It appears that the concept of a live actor playing an ape in a serious drama is not as moribund as I had thought! Lucy Rosyln is playing the role of a chimpanzee in the play Goody at the Edinburgh Festival at this very moment. This is the start of a review on the production by Katharine Kavanagh:
Goody at Pleasance Courtyard, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.
Lucy Roslyn’s extraordinary portrayal of a chimp in her play Goody, produced by BoonDog Theatre company at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, follows a long line of professional ape impersonators, who performed in plays specially written to showcase their talents from the early 1800s. What has changed since that time are society’s attitudes towards both animals and performance, and the character of Goody is offered to us as an anthropological comment on connections and distance between species, rather than the simple 19th Century spectacle of contortion and acrobatic feats.
When I went along to see the play last week at Pleasance Courtyard, I was already mid-way through reading Alan Stockwell’s recent publication, Man-Monkeys: from Regency Pantomime to King Kong. The thoroughness of Stockwell’s historical research, into a niche performance area that was all but forgotten over the last century, is matched by the detail that has gone into BoonDog’s recreation of an animal trainer and his chimp companion in a Depression Era travelling circus of the US.
Read the full review of the play on http://exeuntmagazine.com/reviews/edinburgh-fringe-review-goody-pleasance-courtyard/

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