The horror show begins before we’ve even taken our seats. Walking from the lobby to the theatre we are greeted by emotionless ghost girls holding plates of gravy-smothered chicken legs. It’s well past tea time and even for those who haven’t eaten – it’s enough to make you lose your appetite.
The audience is quick to move away from the ghosts and into their seats. A school boy and girl, Annie and Martin, are sat at the front of the stage, looking fresh, happy and innocent. Behind them sit an older couple (who we learn to be their older selves) looking the immediate opposite. We thought the ghost girls looked lifeless enough, but the impressively crafted wrinkles, white skin and terrified eyes get us questioning the couple before they’ve uttered their first lines.
The play begins; we learn of the nerdy school boy’s unrequited love towards the pretty, naively-unaware girl. The opening is unexpectedly hilarious. The next scene skips a lifetime where we join the now married couple at the table for tea and the mood switches instantly; you can almost smell the tension between painfully anxious Annie and the emotional and often physically abusive Martin. This contrast is initially confusing, as we wonder – where could it have all gone so wrong?
The play jumps through chapters of the couple’s life together, and two more actors are introduced to fill in the middle pieces that reveal key parts of the plot. We learn of the couples struggle to conceive and begin to see where it actually did all go wrong. We feel sorry for both characters as we get to know them more and at times it’s difficult to take sides.
Additional characters also play crucial roles – old school friend Eddie and nurse Winston provide comedic breaks, which are definitely needed and work well against some very real themes of love, loss and health hardships.
The curtains draw for half time and it is apparent the whole audience is equally excited. “I think I’ve figured out the plot”, “I think I know who the monster is”. A creepy ring tells the audience to take their seats for round two, and we join the old couple in their secluded horror house once again. Eery lighting and the same slow ticking clock heighten the crippling atmosphere, and sends the same shivers down our spines from the first half.
The plot builds dramatically as we begin to piece the mystery together. Whether you guessed right or not – no-one could have seen this ending coming. Interpretive dance and loud distorted music sends us into what feels like a bad acid trip. Annie is trapped in her own mind and she’s dragged us in with her. It really feels like there’s no way out. A dramatic, climactic ending reveals the “monster”, and the many other monsters within the story.
It’s bizarre, disturbing, and brilliantly terrifying. If any scrooges want a replay of Halloween, or you simply fancy a superbly written story – go and see Monster when the chance arrives. A clever thriller that won’t disappoint.
Image Credit: Sheffield University Theatre Company