Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield – until 14 March 2020
Reviewed by Sophie Dodworth
The Sheffield Lyceum is taken over by a spectacular show this week, A Monster Calls. Yes, this show is based on a young adults novel published in 2011, written by Patrick Ness. Yes, this show will attract a lot of younger people, but this production is a must see for all. Absolutely everybody.
We follow Conor, a 13-year-old boy who knows his mother is seriously ill, and whose fear grows when nobody will really talk to him about it or tell him what is actually happening. When in the middle of the 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 harsh fables, that in turn, help him face the truth of his situation.
The magic on stage starts right from curtain up. There is minimal set but the set is created by the cast members, all sat to each side of the stage. They become the tables and surfaces by using their hands, they become the soundtrack by using their vocals and they create a never ending, interchanging atmosphere by just being supremely well rehearsed and impeccable with their timing.
There is no dancing in this show but heaps of choreography on every inch of the stage, hats off to Dan Canham, Movement Director for being so creative and precise. The scenes are just staged to perfection.
The music and sound throughout bring every emotion to the absolute hilt, so very exact with what composer Benji Bower must have wanted to create. The two man band, Seamas Carey and Luke Potter do the best job of delivering this beautiful sound track through the production while also adding to the atmosphere with their movement and stage presence.
The cast are second to none. Every single one of the actors give blow away performances, far too many to mention all of them. Ammar Duffus playing the lead of Conor pulls on your heart strings. You end up feeling real emotion for this poor soul, going through school being bullied alongside the heartache of having an ill mother. Maria Omakinwa, playing Mum, makes you believe she is this strong woman, using her maternal strength to really give her son as much belief and hope as she possibly can. Keith Gilmore, excels as The Monster. What an actor. He injects fear throughout the auditorium when he first appears in character and the passion and energy he gives to this performance, well, it is hard to imagine anyone giving it anymore.
This is a breath-taking, spell-bounding, intensely emotional show. Many sniffles and eye-wiping going off as the cast were taking their bows. Will leave you deep in thought. Excellent.