Scottish Dance Theatre and Dundee Rep Ensemble
Part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Children's Theatre Festival Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, and touring
Smack in the middle of about thirty eleven year olds, I wasn't entirely what to expect from Monkey. Associating the show with dodgy Saturday mornings spent at friends' places in London didn't help ease the idea that I was about to watch something that might be about as easy to follow as a bad kung-fu film.
Happily, my expectations were not met. Colin Teevan's adaptation of Monkey is charming, boisterous, and highly entertaining. The production takes its cue from traditional Chinese and Japanese theatre techniques, and thanks to films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The House of Flying Daggers, most kids the ages of the intended audience members were familiar with these conceits.
I was surprised by the way Teevan's script doesn't shrink back from the more transcendental elements of the story - a show aimed at young teenagers could be called ambitious for including elements of Buddhist thought which even adults sometimes struggle to comprehend. Not so! During an interval-conversation with one of the 11-year-old audience members seated beside me, I learned she felt she was able to easily follow what was going on - and the (mostly) quiet whispers passed back and forth among the students confirmed that they were finding the entire production highly entertaining.
The high point of the piece were the fight scenes, always preceeded by a shout of "Time to Play!" from the irrepressible monkey. Actors leapt through the air suspended by an intricate series of ropes and pulleys, occasionally being manipulated by stagehands dressed all in black (something like the soda commercials, for those readers who're unfamiliar with traditional Chinese theatre techniques).
Although the piece is recommended for young teens, older audience members (including myself) had a great time watching it too.
"Monkey" tours to Aberdeen (31st May - 3rd June) and Glasgow (7th - 10th June)
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody