A Monster calls
A Monster Calls. Fable. Myth. Visually and emotionally compelling. A giant ancient yew tree coming to life. Advice to a confused young man. Struggling to come to terms. Terms with the fact that his mother is seriously ill. A dream to discover everything A difficult concept to bring to life.
The hero is a lonely 13-year-old, Conor. Bullied at school, coping with his mother dying of cancer and rebelling against authority, a disciplinarian gran and a dad briefly visiting from the US, Conor turns to a dream like figure. A gigantic monster. One who sprouts from a the local churchyard.
In this production, it is amazing how the magic and dream like nature of the Yew Tree is bought to life through ropes. In a world where we recently question our ability to be kind, there is a torment explored here. A torment that refers to the suffering people experience by caring for loved ones. There is undeniably a strong emotional element to the play.
The tree is of course the key to the story. Director Sally Cookson’s vision using great rope tendrils to bring us a tree is an outstanding representation of simple props. The gracefully lit white set is perfectly matched and supports the use of projection and shadows throughout the production.
The sound of this fairy-tale story is so important. The atmospheric ambience drifts down from two live musicians in an open window above the set. The spoken work, choral harmonies, distorted singing and electronic music is perfectly matched.
Keith Gilmore (Monster) is exceptional. He is imposing, magnificent, with a menacing presence. As is Greg Bernstien’s (Harry), Jade Hackett’s, (Sully), and Kel Matsena’s (Anton). These school-yard bullies vividly show the unnerving intimidation, cruelty and innocence of teenagers.
A Monster Calls combines of excellent storytelling, raw emotion and a theatre environment that embodies the anger, the frustration, the transgression and so mischievous, smart and unexpected. It is no wonder why this stage production has been met with appreciative audiences.
A Monster Calls, The Lowry, Salford Quays, details from www.thelowry.com
Dean Thomas-Lowde for Canal St Online.
Published: 27-Feb-2020 (5782)