A heart-wrenching, gut-twisting black drama that’s not for the lily-livered. My August’s revelation and a play that most definitely made me the most emotionally involved of all the shows I’ve seen recently.
Abigail Hood’s writing is like pizza – tastes just as good as consumed the next day, because as your emotions and hunger diminish, you get to focus on other parts of it and discover the little details that you may have not noticed last night. It’s one of those shows that you don’t mind seeing again and again, just to rediscover it – hopefully this time with less excitement and occasional shock, but more willingness to understand it.
Welcome to 2006 Glasgow, home of Monsters
The show tells the story of Kayleigh (Abigail Hood) and Zoe (Caitlin Fielding), two teenagers who regularly meet up in Glasgow’s forgotten scrap of wasteland. The year is 2006. The girls smoke, drink and flirt, and aim to escape from their messed-up family lives for a while. Kayleigh avoids going home – that’s where her Bible-quoting mother physically punishes her for every mistake and makes her do sex work for the sake of family finances. It seems like nobody really cares about the girls – but then we meet Rebecca (Emma Keele), a teacher who takes interest in Kayleigh and starts to get involved in making sure the girl has some safety and support. The first act ends with an extremely strong “bang” and I found myself stopping my breath for a couple of seconds once “it” happened. I won’t reveal more here, but the scene is one of the most intense pieces I’ve seen in a long time.
The second act jumps 13 years ahead and explores the concept of guilt, past and redemption. It faces the character with the classic question: how much should the past affect our future? Is a “sinner” allowed to have a peaceful future?
Setting the scene
Why this play works so well is a mix of fantastic scriptwriting and unexpected twists that shake the viewer’s soul to the core. The dialogues stretch from the casual teenage chat to a serious, blame-filled conversation at a cemetery. Communication between the characters is presented in a way that lets us spend time with the characters and discover their pains and motivations – sometimes explained in detail, sometimes just quickly mentioned and almost brushed off. That’s how we uncover -layer by layer- the sad reality of Kayleigh’s home situation and her mother’s attitude towards her “imperfect” daughter.
The play is very visual in a spine-chilling way. One of the scenes that will stay with me for a long is a physical punishment that Kayleigh’s mom uses to keep her daughter under control. This moment is so well-played that despite knowing that it’s just a play, I had to look away for a second.
Who’s the “Monster”?
The play keeps the concept of “monster” open to interpretation. Sure, it’s easy to state that Kayleigh is the titular monstrosity. But we could say the same thing about her religion-driven mother, or about Rebecca’s husband Steve (Kevin Wathen), who leaves his wife the moment problems seem like too much to handle. Being a monster is a generic concept which slowly spreads out and stigmatises many characters in the show.
“Monster” has its core value in a strong female conflict, used as the main storyline. Two strong women: Kayleigh and Rebecca, share a solid connection, even though they only physically have 2 scenes together. Throughout the play, though, both of them think about each other, and battle their demons, while almost mentally wrestling with each other. This conflict is the absolute “meat” of the play and Hood and Keele deliver it in a convincing, layered manner.
Guilt and Grief-shaped incredible characters
The whole cast delivers a magnificent, intensive performance. Fielding is fabulous as a teenager who’s lost in her dreams but doesn’t control real life. Kevin Tomlison as Zoe’s partner portrays a hopeless romantic, who is trying his best to believe in change and starting from scratch. And then there’s Gillian Kirkpatrick as Zoe’s mom – a daunting person, blindfolded by religion and completely reverse morals. Kirkpatrick created a character that’s so bad to the core, that it’s unbelievably hard to root for her even on her deathbed.
“Monster” is a play that will hit everyone slightly differently. Depending on your life experiences, family toxicity and childhood, you may leave the auditorium either slightly traumatised or touched yet amazed. This show is magic – brutal, painful, memorable magic. Make sure to see it until it closes its run at Park Theatre.
Veritas Theatre Company and Kepow in association with Park Theatre present the World Premiere of
“Monster” at Park Theatre
By Abigail Hood
Directed by Kevin Tomlinson
Until 20 Aug 2022
I was invited to see the show on a PR invite. All opinions are my own.