There was a point while watching Monster at the Park Theatre when I realised I had my hand over my mouth. What was unfolding on stage was shocking, and I haven't had a reaction like that to a play for quite a while.
Abigail Hood's new play is set in Glasgow in 2006 and follows teenager Kayleigh 'Kay' Grey (played by Hood) and her best friend Zoe (Caitlin Fielding). Zoe is quiet and shy and gets bullied, and Kay is prone to retaliate on her behalf. However, the retaliations tend to get her into increasingly serious trouble.
One teacher, Mrs Hastie (Emma Keele), thinks Kay is at heart a good person, but something is going on to make her act up. She is trying to build trust so Kay will open up.
But before Mrs Hastie can find out if her hunch is right, events start to spiral out of control with horrific consequences.
(I'm being deliberately vague as I don't want to spoil anything.)
The structure of the play means it builds to a critical event, but rather than that being towards the end, it allows time to deal more fully with the consequences. And that's what makes this really interesting.
It isn't about forgiving or forgetting, it's about how you live with something terrible that you can never escape from. And how much of that is fair.
The dark extremes depicted reminded me a little of some of Philip Ridley's plays, just without the fantasy or dystopian settings.
Monster deals with some tough topics some of which might be triggering (best to check with the theatre). However, it doesn't feel like it's trying to shock for the sake of it but rather to give food for thought. And there was plenty of that, particularly around how far past experiences mitigate or generate sympathy.
Brilliantly written and performed, it is a gripping and powerful play and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Monster, Park Theatre
Writer: Abigail Hood
Director: Kevin Tomlinson
Running time: 2 hours and 5 minutes, including an interval
Booking until 20 August, for more details and to buy tickets, head to the Park Theatre website.
Freud's Last Session, King's Head Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Closer, Lyric Hammersmith⭐️⭐️⭐️ and a half