Monkey Bars

Tue 22nd – Sat 26th October 2013

reviews

Francesca Dytor

at 09:24 on 23rd Oct 2013

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Monkey Bars is certainly a very idiosyncratic play. Running for a grand total of 55 minutes on the opening night, the pace of the play is rapid and fast switching. Almost like, you could say, the inside of a child's mind.

The premise is simple: children's conversations are spoken through adult actors. This can, occasionally, get a little confused. The more 'adultlike' the situation, the more childlike the voice and facial expression becomes. In one delightful scene involving communal drug taking, I wasn't sure whether I was just being presented with slightly regressive teenagers. The switch between the actors as adults and as children was occasionally confusing - if it wasn't for their clarification to the audience, I wouldn't have known quite what the point was.

Overall though, the play works for its simplicity. It treats every theme imaginable - domestic abuse, xenophobia, gender stereotype, religious intolerance. The vulnerable hope of a child is refreshing in the face of these subjects, but ultimately frustrating. No conclusions are drawn, no option left possible. The endless optimism of the children is endearing but essentially futile. Yet the play remains quintessentially funny. The audience certainly seemed to enjoy it - perhaps for the raw truth that it presented. The playground girl-boy divide was uncomfortably true to life, a raw reminder of how little we all change, except in the actual expression of our emotions. We are reminded of the acuteness of childhood pain, particularly in relation to parental separation, the feelings of inescapable guilt attached to divorce. The play can certainly make you uncomfortable, whilst remaining humorous at the same time - an impressive feat. It is this acute dichotomy that is the most remarkable feature, the ability to provoke the most awkward response out of a seemingly straight forward situation. The fragility of childhood is repeated as a theme, constantly forcing the audience to examine their own assumptions.

There are definitely many worthwhile elements to the play. It is a very interesting examination, and certainly well worth watching, even if at times it lacks coherence. The acting is generally good, as is the directing of the play, with moments of high tension contrasted with a freeing frivolity.

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