A Monster Calls remains one of my very favourite books, and so encountering it on the stage was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I was curious to see how such an epic, twisted plot of fairy tales, monsters and loss could be brought to the theatre.
A sparse stage and a small cast ask the audience to join them in a slightly more conceptual journey through Connor’s experiences than the book or film do, and the lack of Jim Kay’s striking inky illustrations is noticeable, with the stage play opting for a stark white setting that never quite brings back the windswept visuals of the story’s other two outings. The high-concept does work for the play though – using music to create the atmosphere that the sparseness of the stage lacks, and with striking performances from the actors, the emotion still pulses out into the audience in heart wrenching waves. The plot hasn’t changed, and it’s just as powerful as ever, with a bittersweet kernel at the core that the interplay between Matthew Tennyson’s Connor and Marianne Oldham, who plays his terminally ill mother, deliver with a raw honesty and passion.
A Monster Calls might be a stretch for viewers not used to something quite so abstract, but it doesn’t lack an emotional punch, and if you can let yourself get lost in the story and the performances, you’re in for a real… treat seems like the wrong word for something that made me sob uncontrollably for 3 hours.