Theatre review 3/5
By Kelly Wickham
A Monster Calls
Until February 15
Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, PO19 6AP
A Monster Calls is about Conor, a 13-year-old boy who knows his mother is seriously ill – and whose fear grows when no one will really talk to him about it.
Then late one night, a monster pays him a visit: the enormous, ancient yew tree in his garden comes to life, and begins to tell Conor a series of fables that ultimately help him face the truth of his situation.
It’s a play which seems to be like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it. Half the audience nodded passionately at the end, a handful stood up in admiration and the rest seemed confused and unsure. Either way, it’s a mesmerising play with a fascinating storyline following how Conor (played incredibly well by Ammar Duffus) battles with his monsters, from bullying, to his interfering grandmother and his absent father.
When those who love him come close or try to help, we watch in agony as Conor pushes them all away.
Along comes the monster, again, brilliantly played by Keith Gilmore, firm and to the point but also gentle and kind.
The messages and moral of the story are really deep and thought-provoking but somehow the flashing and hypnotic imagery, coupled with the music which sounded like it belonged on the track listing to Dark Side of the Moon, didn’t sit well.
Too many people littered the stage at one time, distracting the audience with dangling ropes and climbing rigging and dramatic dancing often resulting in what looked like actors falling over.