REVIEW: MONSTER (Kings Head Theatre) ★★★★★

A strong script and a stellar performance, from the multi-talented writer and actor Joe Sellman-Leava, Monster tells the part-true-part-fiction story of boy meets girl – but this is no ordinary boy. ‘Joe’ is an actor rehearsing for a new role that calls on him to uncover and explore his own ability to channel extreme violence. Using YouTube videos and internet research, ‘Joe’ explores the violent experiences of others; expertly impersonating Patrick Stewart and Mike Tyson from interviews they have given on the subject.

Beautifully written, the experience of Stewart, as a victim of violence, is juxtaposed sublimely against the interviews of Mike Tyson, himself a professional man of violence. These two characters are skilfully twisted in conversation in the mind of Joe who is rapidly becoming possessed by his own character in his latest play. Joe is in a precarious position, urged to continue researching violence and violent experiences, by his director, to step inside the abusive character he is due to play. At this critical point in Joe’s life he meets a girl. A whirlwind romance ensures and they move into Joe’s tiny room in his urban city bachelor pad. Everything is perfect – or so it seems – until they start exploring each other’s darkest fantasies.

This deep exploration of violence is a masterpiece of theatre, performed as a solo piece, it is testament to the strength of the script and the chilling performance which leaves the audience mesmerised. The slow-burn crescendo of brutality culminates in an explosion of rage which manifests as realistically, and as frighteningly, for the audience as might be imagined in the darkest recesses of all our minds.

An incredible triumph for the fringe and could go on to great things in the future!

Reviewed by Lee Knight
Photo: Ben Borley


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