THE LOWRY, SALFORD – until 29 FEBRUARY 2020
REVIEWED BY ANGELOS SPANTIDEAS
A Monster Calls, originally a novel by Partick Ness which was also adapted for the big screen, is a play that is all about being vulnerable yet strong in the face of adversity, and how a teenager walks life when his whole world is crumbling down.
The main theme is how teenager Conor is coping and supporting his mom who is going through cancer treatment, while at the same time being bullied at school. Conor seems to be able to stay strong for his mom, however, does not seem to have a safe space to be himself, neither at school, nor at home especially after his grandma’s coming to help support her daughter. With a dad who has moved abroad and started his life over, who does not meet the expectations of a father figure, Conor’s unconscious calls to a yew tree monster to help him understand his feelings and the pain that he has been bottling up.
Ammar Duffus is spectacular at portraying Conor’s teenage struggle, his awkwardness, his pride, and his will to believe that despite being 13, he is strong enough to support his mom. He manages to unveil the reality of when cancer becomes another part of someone’s life, and how him trying to stay strong isolates him from everyone other than his mom. Maria Omakinwa’s performance as the disease ridden mom, who is trying to stay strong and stay positive for her son, is heart breaking showing how parents trying to shelter their kids from the truth often has the opposite results, and how sometimes in order to keep hopeful people often lie even to themselves.
Finally, Keith Gillmore does an excellent job at creating a convincing monster, despite the lack of make-up, prosthetics and being just a man on the stage. His interpretation of being in Conor’s sub conscious and his story telling is impeccable, while his persona succeeds at giving intensity and depth to the character, who grows from a monster to a paternal figure.
Overall, a monster calls is a heart wrenching, emotional, raw play, that unfolds and builds up to a strong and honest finale that confronts with realism the aftermaths of cancer. The set and the visuals are absolutely stunning and accentuate the effect of each scene, while the live electronic