Thursday, 28 May 2009

Lost Monsters - Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

Lost Monsters by Laurence Wilson
Director: Matt Wilde
Reviewer: Kate Cotterell

‘The world would be a better place if we were all like bees’ is one of the memorable lines from Laurence Wilson’s Lost Monsters, playing at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool where images of bees adorn almost every available space and it is clear we are being asked to draw parallels between our human world and the insect world we know so little of. The parallels exist predominantly through each of the characters who, according to the programme, are each connected to an insect. Mickey (nick Moss) – the loud, brash, uneducated and insecure Scouser is the cockroach, while older, wiser and more worldly, yet some home insular, Richard – played beautifully by an almost unrecognisable Joe McGann – is a trapdoor spider. You have to look hard to find these insect parallels and draw the connections but there is some interest to be found in it if you’ve got the time and the energy!

The play centres around Mickey, Sian and Jonsey – three run-aways from diverse places and of different ages – young Sian, played by Shameless actress Rebecca Ryan – is just 16. Their life leads them around arcades where autistic Jonesy, who has a ‘computer brain’, gets to know the fruit machines and their systems, making them ready cash and keeping the dream of Las Vegas alive. As the play begins they’ve been involved in a fight with a group of hooligans who pick on an eight month pregnant Sian while she’s chalking pavement art. Mickey’s attacked the kids and cut his arm in the process. Their journey away from the police leads them to what they believe to be an abandoned house in the middle of a motorway and the story really begins.

Unlike many of the Everyman’s ‘home grown’ pieces, which focus on the eternal struggle of simply being a Scouser, Lost Monsters draws on broader and more worldly issues, making reference to Mps expenses, youth culture, guns & knives and global warming – to name a few. The references to global warming and our need for nature, in particular bees, is relevant and interesting and very much in keeping with a play that puts so much focus on bees. Some of the other ‘issues’ do feel a little bit crammed in and in a play driven by characters and relationships I would have liked less political agenda and more story – but that’s just my preference.

The performances from the small cast are strong throughout but the stand out performance comes from the most unknown member of the cast, with Kevin Trainor’s portrayal of Jonesy a real triumph. Jonsey’s dialogue is wonderfully drawn – he’s compulsive, engaging, intelligent yet childlike and just the sort of paradox that makes a character interesting. It is Jonesy’s relationships with the other characters that makes this piece so watchable and the revelation about his parents and the ‘missing part’ of his memory is the stand out moment of the piece.

There are many, many more aspects of the piece I could talk about here – the intriguing and beautifully designed set, Richard’s ‘magical’ qualities, the allusions to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the strange Mastermind moment that, for me, jarred with the whole piece, Kevin Trainor’s incredible David Attenborough impersonation, but I will simply say that I really enjoyed Lost Monsters and it is one of the only plays of recent years that has left me wanting to find out more, in particular about the characters and where they came from – and indeed ended up.
It’s clear that Lost Monsters is an important piece for the Everyman and, indeed, for Laurence Wilson who has taken the play through many incarnations and drafts over the last few years. If you like interesting topics, engaging writing and something that’s going to make you think then I would recommend it!

Lost Monsters runs at the Everyman until Sat 13th June
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