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Theatre Review Shock tactics fail to generate empathy

SIMON PARSONS recommends a thought-provoking play about the long-term impact of traumatic childhoods and the morality of accepting the rehabilitation of social outcasts

Monster
Park Theatre

ABIGAIL HOOD’S well-constructed naturalistic drama opens with two teenage Glaswegian girls hanging out, flirting and fantasising after school on a patch of wasteland, symbolic of their lives.

The Monster, played by Hood, is Kayleigh — a bright, bitter and damaged youngster whose home life with an abusive mother on the game is a living nightmare.

When her girlfriend finally deserts her for a boy, her instinctive response is an appalling act of violence towards the only adult who has paid her any attention.

At first this drama has resonances with the influential 1950s drama, A Taste of Honey, updated for a post-Jamie Bulger generation inured to shock.

Delaney’s original play broke fresh ground whereas this covers territory frequently mined in soap operas.

The dramatic scenes come thick and fast as the tough talking, aggressive Kayleigh crashes and burns.

The difference comes after the interval when the Monster attempts to restart her life years later with the crushing weight of guilt and social abhorrence she endures.

It is powerfully acted with Hood and Caitlin Fielding as her girlfriend, Zoe, dealing with an uncaring and hurtful adult world but still hosting childish fantasies of running away together to live with nature on a Scottish island, while the adults in their lives are all shown to have their own personal agendas.

Director Kevin Tomlinson does a good job keeping the action moving at pace and the dialogue brimming with tension and there are many affecting scenes but this is probably where the weakness lies.

The roller coaster of abuse, violence, argument and love, shifts plummets and rises from scene to scene and we are left much like a soap opera audience, interested to find out what happens but untouched to any real extent.

This premier is definitely worth catching, covering as it does thought-provoking issues about the long-term impact of traumatic childhoods and the morality of accepting the rehabilitation of social outcasts — even though the all too familiar, over-dramatised style might devalue its message.

Runs until August 20 2022. Box office: parktheatre.co.uk

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