Theatre Square, Nottingham NG1 5ND, UK

REVIEW | A Monster Calls.


A MONSTER CALLS
THEATRE ROYAL, NOTTINGHAM

Watching a novel come to life in the theatre is sometimes one of the most transforming experiences you can go through. Patrick Ness's piercing novel A Monster Calls has sold millions but there is also a film adaption. Director Sally Cookson has taken this moving story and brought it vividly to life in a stage production like none other. The play already won an Olivier Award and is set to be one of the best plays to surface in a UK tour in 2020. 

At the centre of the story is Conor, a lonely 13-year-old boy. Not only is he being bullied by the kids at school, but he is also coping with the decline of his mother's health to cancer. His grandmother won't stop interfering and the relationship with his dad is quite estranged. He's going through a lot, and there's a fear dug way down deep into his soul that he carries as a burden through every day. But one night Conor is woken by something at his window. The ancient yew tree that sits in their garden comes to life and a monster has come walking. It has come to tell Conor 3 tales from when it walked before. When he has finished, it's down to Conor to tell his own story and face his deepest fears. 

A Monster Calls is undoubtedly one of the most visually stunning productions I've ever laid my eyes on. The use of physical theatre oozes personality and fierce emotional portrayal, whilst the original music and use of the actor's voice for sound adds ambience to the entire show. The actors are sat at the side of the stage for a large proportion of the show and are very much in the midst of all of the action. The use of chairs, rope and other props are helped largely by the striking projections on the space at the back. The rope plays an important part in representing how our life is connected by different threads and experiences. It takes the different roles of support and threat that is hauntingly memorisisng for the audience. At the back of the space is where the musical score is also played from, live in this production. The original score sits well alongside this moving story and completely captivates the emotions. 




The cast is superb in delivering the different tones and emotional turmoil experienced surrounding people whose loved one is terminally ill. Ammar Duffus who plays Conor barely leaves the stage in this show, his portrayal is honest and raw in every breath and we are all carried with him on his journey.  You could really sense the rollercoaster of emotions a young person would go through and Duffas delivered an exceptional performance around its sensitive context. 

Taking on the role of the Monster is Keith Gilmore who gives an inviorgating performance. He exhausts the audience as he races around the space, showing his natural circus abilities on the ropes and amplifies his voice into the audience that leaves you with goosebumps. 



Collectively the performing company do a superb job in bringing this breathtaking and much-loved story to life. The silence at the end of the production, broken by sniffles before thunderous applause is in itself shows how captivated people were by Conor's story. It's an exhilarating piece of theatre but also increasingly aware of the sensitivity surrounding the subject matter in A Monster Calls. Not only should this production be a must-see for its visually beautiful look but because it's a breathtaking performance. I was captivated from start to finish and it's a show that will be treasured by everyone who sees it.

You can watch A Monster Calls at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham until 22 Feb. You can also catch it at the Belgrade Theatre between 3-7 March. You can find out more and book your tickets here.

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