This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews
Writer: David Greig
Director: Guy Hollands
The Public Reviews Rating:
A few weeks on from the Edinburgh Fringe and it’s time for another unlikely premise for a musical play. The Monster in the Hall tells the story of young teen Duck Macatarsney (Gemma McElhinney) and her pizza-eating, spliff-smoking, bike-riding, heavy metal loving widower dad (Keith Macpherson) whose MS is gradually worsening. An impending visit from the Social Work Department, the confusing attentions of a classmate and the worry of what her dad is actually doing on the computer for hours after she goes to bed, add to Duck’s increasingly loosening grip on her life.
Unlikely the premise may be – but boy does it work. This is a well-worked script which is laugh out loud funny from start to finish. The story is infused with such infectious charm and wit that I defy anyone not to be completely engaged by its joy and exuberance. It also manages to deliver a dose of healthy realism to a subject matter which could easily have been ruined by political correctness or over-sentimentality. The pacing too, is all but perfect: moving the story along with just enough time to get the message across whilst never letting you get bored.
The cast of four show impressive versatility and energy as they deftly handle the disparate and hysterical characters as well as providing us with the chirpy musical interludes. With a Norwegian online gamer; a smarmy teacher; a sexually misunderstood classmate; a leaflet obsessed social worker and the would-be writer teen central character, the cast have plenty to sink their teeth into. Shining brightest among them is McElhinney as Duck, whose beguiling delivery has you wishing her every crazy dream come true.
We should celebrate originality wherever we find it. All too often the theatre world regurgitates the same old tried and tired formulas. Writer David Greig pushes the boundaries in The Monster in the Hall proving that things we might turn our gaze from or want to be swept under the carpet can be thoughtfully, realistically and hysterically staged for entertainment.
This is a true gem of a show, richly deserving acclaim and deserves to be seen by the widest audience. Look out for it as it tours the UK. You will not be disappointed.
Runs until 22nd September