What are the main ingredients of a fairy story? Well, you can certainly make an entertaining tale with a fairy (even if it is a Fairy of Catastrophe), a princess (a sixteen-year-old who happens to be her father’s carer), her romantic interest (even if the chap is thought to be gay), a beast (the widowed Hell’s Angels bike-loving father suffering from Multiple Sclerosis), his love interest (even if she may be a crazy stalker, heavy metal, feminist, anarchist troll-lady), a supposedly helpful godmother waving leaflets galore (who might just be the authorities’ plant trying to separate the princess from her beast) and, of course, a monster in the hall.
To take the tale beyond just entertaining, a true fairy story has something more: a message to teach, information that is spread without it being bashed over your head and drummed into your ears, where entertainment subtly carries wisdom. David Greig’s The Monster in the Hall is such a true fairy story, told with song, mime, creative vocal sound effects, some very fine acting, great comedy and, at its core, heart and soul.
This Citizens Theatre / TAG production has a very strong cast in Gemma McElhinney, Beth Marshall, David Carlyle and Keith MacPherson. They work in sync, blending voices, energy and support, and the direction by Guy Hollands keeps the scenes racing along. The cast alternate their main characters with a narrative 60s girl group, beautifully sung and choreographed, and other treats along the journey include a mastermind session, tetris tests and a hilarious online fantasy game sequence. There is a larger than life feel that suits such a fairy story, but the truth of the characters’ lives also shines through.
There are times when the father’s blindness seems confusingly forgotten in his physicality and there was a moment where this reviewer started wondering how many breakneck flashbacks we were to be treated to and if, in fact, this was all we would get, but that was exactly when forward momentum in the story took over and at all stages there was brilliant humour. This comedy gave the occasional stark emotional moment – never over-played – even greater power: Greig and Hollands do not shirk from the realities of a teenager dealing with her own personal problems, the death of her mother years before, caring for her increasingly sick father and now desperately trying to hold onto the only life she knows – no matter the difficulties – afraid that in this one day, this day of catastrophe, she will lose her last remaining family and her home.
The Monster in the Hall is brought to roaring life with great understanding of its subject matters and of the power of theatrical entertainment. For hilarity, emotion and thought, make the acquaintance of this fabulous monster yourself.
By Danielle Farrow
4 – 28 August (not 8, 22), various times (duration 1hr15) @ Traverse Theatre