I’ve never cried at the theatre before, but tears ran down my cheeks at the opening night of A Monster Calls last night. Audience members on the right and left of me were crying too.
The first youth theatre production by Gympie-based Perseverance Street Theatre Company, A Monster Calls is the story of Connor, a 13 year old boy facing challenges none of us want to face.
Cleverly, promotion of the show does not reveal what these challenges are.
A well-directed ensemble of 18 young actors create the imaginary and the real worlds of Connor (played by Riley Hotham).
The monster, an ancient Yew tree played by Fletcher Colfs, guides Connor through those challenges, in a fairly confronting way.
Directed by Sharon Hogan and Sarah Harvey, the play is a youth theatre response to the novel A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
It is elegantly staged and lit with minimal sets. Complex movement and good acting bring the story to life.
It is pacey and tense and takes no time to get started. Soon you are drawn into Riley’s worlds and the show pulls no punches about the pain he is going through. Hotham’s performance is strong, authentic, moving and believable.
Ava Stewart is luminous as Connor’s ethereal mother who gently commands attention when on stage.
Fletcher Colfs as the ancient Yew Tree channels pop singer Michael Hutchence in his animated, menacing and sexy portrayal of a wise old tree who has seen it all and learned a few things along the way.
Story looks at complexity
Around midnight, the Yew Tree (and his ensemble) hauntingly ‘comes walking’ with scary tales about courage and the complexity of human nature to tell struggling Connor.
Supporting the outstanding lead performances is a united and smooth ensemble (always a sign of good direction). The energy did not drop for a minute and it was electric.
Music and song are used sparingly and evocatively as the story builds to the unexpected climax which will leave you moved and enlightened.
Plenty of dramatic tension
It is compelling drama and live theatre at its best: tense, dramatic and action packed with a fast moving story. This production is also proof positive that excellent theatre can and does occur outside of capital cities.
Like that great ad for the Cornetto ice cream cone, there are no boring bits!
There was a standing ovation on opening night and I saw radiant faces in the audience when we walked out after the show.
That should tell you all you need to know.
Performances run from Tuesday 20 to Sunday 25 June.
Show starts 7.00 pm and runs for 70 minutes.
Tickets are $20 and are available at https://events.humanitix.com/a-monster-calls