Monster presented by Joe Sellman-Leava and Worklight Theatre
What is it? Monster is a one man look at violence and masculinity.
What is it all about?
Joe is an actor, struggling with a production of Othello and his own tendencies towards violence. He performs snippets of interviews from Patrick Stewart and Mike Tyson to illustrate the point that men may be inherently violent.
How did it make me feel?
For a play that is not necessarily the kindest on men and their characters, this was an extremely masculine show, in writing performance and production. Even if the writer, Joe Sellman-Leava had not also cast himself as himself, this play is undeniably written by a man. There is a certain arrogance in believing you can take one of the most inherently unlikeable stereotypes, the out of work pontificating actor, and ask a room full of people to listen to his inner thoughts for an hour. Especially when those inner thoughts centre around congratulating himself for not having beat up or raped his girlfriend yet. Maybe the decision to include asides from Mike Tyson and Patrick Stewart, also played by Sellman-Leava, was an attempt at broadening the horizons of the theme explored but mainly it felt like an excuse to show off his impressive impressions. I am referring to them as impressions and not multi-rolling as they were very accurate and true to life but also Sellman-Leava fell flat when it came to characterising his girlfriend, the only semi-fictional character other than himself. I hoped the presence of a female voice may have broken up the offensive relentless rhetoric about male violence, but as she was also written by Sellman-Leava, her role is unfortunately reduced to another male centred stereotype, only there to act as a sounding board for more of Joe’s ideas.
Sometimes plays with offensive and thoughtless narratives can be saved by its production. But Monster has an uncreative bare bones set with inconsistent and ever shifting lighting that only serves to confuse. Sellman-Leava, specifically when playing himself, really struggles to add any likeability to his character, playing on one note of unending self indulgent whining, the most unrealistic part of the narrative being that he is cast as the brilliant Iago in Othello, who I don’t think anyone can imagine as the ‘nice guy’ Sellman-Leava attempts to portray himself as.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with masculine theatre, but Joe Sellman-Leava uses his privilege to spout offensive ideas, with no worthwhile counter argument and then has the arrogance to congratulate himself for it in his own script. Monster is a shining endorsement for getting a second or third pair of eyes on your work, and making sure those eyes are diverse.
Monster is playing in Cage, VAULT Festival, until the 8th February 2020.
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