THE MONSTER IN THE HALL
by David Greig.
Traverse Theatre (Traverse 2) Street EH1 2ED To 28 2011.
10.30am 17, 27 Aug.
1pm 18, 23 Aug.
3.30pm 19 Aug.
3.45pm 24 Aug.
6.15pm 20 Aug.
6.30pm 25 Aug.
8.30pm 28 Aug.
9pm 16, 21, 26 Aug.
Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
TICKETS: 0131 228 1404.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 August
Fast-action fantasy and reality in imaginative drama.
Elephant in the room-style question: how do you know this is written for young (well, teenage; well, 14+) audiences? Partly because it’s tagged with TAG (Theatre About Glasgow, originally) the arm of Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre that’s taken high-quality theatre to community venues and, in particular, schools over the decades.
And because of its style, especially the opening, in Guy Hollands’ production, where the four performers enter and take up positions at microphones, before introducing themselves to the audience seated all around them, school, or youth-centre manner.
There’s a crowd-subduing, full-frontal attack to that start, and it introduces the energy that’s going to be constant through events that follow. The story’s potentially heavyweight, single-parent (father), junk-food lifestyle, sickness striking, bringing social services in its wake, with possible separation of father and daughter. Good old sub-Ibsen woe all-round (with a heavyweight Scandinavian character to boot).
Yet Greig spins a speedy fantasy out of it – another example of dazzling technique to set beside his story of Prudencia Hart, sold-out down the road. It’s a piece anyone might appreciate but it hits dead-centre the world of teenagers ready to be bored with theatre.
Speed, virtual reality, pulsing freshness and a sense of reality edging onto fantasy, of determined independence, shoot through the fast-paced story, with its motorbike crash, its rough sex edging onto tender desire, the sense of something extraordinary about experience, all comes alive in a first-rate quartet of performances, zipped along by Hollands’ fast-paced, yet never glib direction.
Fairytale references and school playground bike-shed reality form part of the mix, as young Duck reflects on her life in moments between the onrush of living it. In the unrelenting pressure of action, during which the fine cast never fails, the main focus lights on Duck, and Gemma McElhinney gives a superb showing of youthful energy and inventiveness.
This isn’t a piece to deny the seriousness of teen life, or life at all, in Kirkcaldy, where it’s set, or beyond. But nor does it let up enough for its audience to grow bored. It’s action theatre that cares about its characters and its audience.
Lawrence Lofthouse: David Carlyle.
Hugh Macatarsney: Keith Macpherson.
Ms Agnetha Bergholm/Mrs Linda Underhill: Beth Marshall.
Duck Macatarsney: Gemma McElhinney.
Director: Guy Hollands.
Sound/Music: Nigel Dunn, Stephen Wright.
Choreographer: Andrew Panton.
Costume: Elaine G Coyle.
Assistant director: Amanda Gaughan.