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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Monsters (Malthouse Theatre) - 65 minutes

As children, what do we fear the most? That the boogie man will get us.

It is from that dark place that Monsters comes.

It is all about the fear of the dark and the perception of visions in the blackness.

It is a scary tale writ large.

Photos by Pia Johnson

Monsters starts with acclaimed actor Alison Whyte wandering out in front of a large, carefully constructed stage.

She asks us to shut our eyes and get our imaginations firing.

She proceeds to relay a story of a time when sink holes have developed in all the major world cities.

In one, huge buildings have been swallowed up and a fence has been built around a giant cavity.

A year later, a woman has hired a caver to try to find her sister who has been lost down there.

The caver and the woman have torches and headlamps, but little other equipment.

Most apprehensive about descending into the abyss, the woman nevertheless follows the caver into the unknown.

What confronts them is the stuff of nightmares.

Monsters is the brainchild of writer Emme Hoy.

She and director Matthew Lutton held a few workshops before stay-at-home orders swept the planet.

And then “in a world that felt like it was coming apart at the seams” she started writing Monsters.

Hoy acknowledges that sometimes hope and unity exist in confronting the indescribable together.

Monsters unfolds through the skills of the storyteller, Whyte, who is forever changing her delivery style and body language to best reflect what she is saying.

Her execution is sublime.

But what we see on stage would not be as compelling without the supreme athleticism, dexterity and talent of three super fit modern dancers.

Samantha Hines, Josie Weise and Kimball Wong leap, drop, tumble, slink, contort, intersect, appear and disappear throughout the performance.

Dressed, semi-dressed or naked, their presence looms large throughout.

The choreography, devised by Stephanie Lake, is masterful. My adoration for it knows no bounds. Put simply, it elevates the production to a higher plane.

The narrative and the dance are seamless woven together, such that they become symbiotic.

Still, there is a lot more to Monsters.

That extends to the creation of an appropriate soundscape to trap and escalate the fear.

The “sound” of rock remains with me with long after I exited the theatre.

The person responsible is Marco Cher-Gibard and I applaud his efforts, which range from subtle to overwhelming.

The set and lighting are modern marvels of ingenuity.

Paul Jackson has turned what upon entry is simply a black “shell-like” stage into a dark hued chamber of secrets, with trap doors and misshapen light sources. I am in awe of how effective that is.

I have an enormous amount of time and gratitude for this sterling creative endeavour that is Monsters. Put simply, it is a triumph of visionaries.

Monsters is playing at Merlyn Theatre at Malthouse Theatre until 11th December, 2022.


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