Theatre Review - Monster

ABIGAIL Hood packs a lot into her play about domestic abuse and juvenile violence. It comes laden with trigger warnings that also serve as plot spoilers.

Two teenagers, Kayleigh (Hood) and Zoe (Caitlin Fielding), bunk off school and meet on a scrap of wasteland in Glasgow. The possibility of their friendship developing into something more hovers over them as they dream of escaping to the Isle of Muck together.

Kay is befriended by her pregnant teacher Miss Hastie (Emma Keele) who recognises that she’s bright. But Kay’s homelife is deeply troubled. Her mother Hazel (Gillian Kirkpatrick) abuses her to the point where she’s so brutalised she can barely function.

In a moment of stress, Kay commits an horrific crime that touches them all and changes the course of their lives forever. Some may baulk at the explicit violence reminiscent of Sarah Kane’s work.

The second half of Monster is set in Brighton 13 years later. Kay agrees to marry John (Kevin Tomlinson, who also directs) and they have a baby together. But when Kay returns to Glasgow to visit her dying mother in hospital she has to confront the people whose lives she devastated. Can she ever make amends?

Hood includes provocative, hard-hitting themes, but the writing is uneven and sometimes poorly executed. Some scenes are very good indeed – the final confrontation between Kay and Miss Hastie and the poignant ending, for example – but others strain our credulity. It’s hard for Kirkpatrick not to play Hazel as anything but cartoon evil and John seems unreasonably trusting.

Monster tries to cram in too much – child abuse, human cruelty, violence, guilt, blame, forgiveness, desire, redemption – and we bear the brunt of this overload but the play undeniably packs a punch. Hood proves herself a writer to watch. 

Until August 20

Originally published by Islington Tribune