You probably won’t like Monster. This reviewer certainly didn’t.
It’s described by its creator as ‘a psychedelic fantasy’ and the audience are greeted by a barrage of warning signs as they enter the auditorium. Strobe lights, smoke machines, bad language, bare bums. It’s like the road to the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, and, certainly, we enter the theatre to find it engulfed in smoke, as though we’ve accidentally wandered into a swamp or to the African jungle at dawn.
Strange somnambulant figures wander through the miasma putting up props and lighted signs flash obscure messages, advising us to ‘suck it up’ if we’re uncomfortable; and the piece itself, once it eventually gets going, has some startling moments and a few quite breathtaking images, but, on the whole – if we’re being brutally honest here – is kinda boring.
“So why the five stars, Max?“ I hear you ask. Because, for all its flaws, Monster is an outstanding achievement and dares to not only be different but revels in its uniqueness and gleefully sticks two fingers up not only to its audiences but especially to its critics. And in an era where the Fringe is becoming more and more dominated by safe bets like endless tribute band shows or washed-up TV comedians trundling out the same bad jokes they did last year and the year before that, not to mention the dance world where established ballet companies dust off The Nutcracker every Christmas and Swan Lake every summer. It’s fabulous to see choreographers like Yen-Cheng Liu having the chutzpa to bring something as unconventional as Monster to the Dance Base stage.
And while we’re on the subject, bear in mind that practically every record company in Britain rejected the Beatles before George Martin spotted what everyone else had failed to recognise.