Monarch, written and directed by student Tom Heath, weaves together spoken word, poetry and dramatic monologues to tell the stories of four characters all trying to find their place in an increasingly difficult world. Lauren is trying to get her life back together after a breakdown, whilst Lewis is becoming increasingly involved in dangerous events in the name of politics. Zoe not only has to deal with the trials of starting university, but must also confront her relationship with her father Arthur, who is trying to do the best he can.

While there is plenty of plot, for me this play is all about its characters. All of the actors should be highly commended for their outstanding acting; each contributing to making this play, which deals with heavy themes such as political radicalism, rape and disconnection, heart-wrenching yet relatable for the audience. All of the characters remained on stage for the duration of the play, and successfully kept in character the entire time.

“The audience [were] enraptured in her performance”

Maddy Strauss gave an outstanding performance as Lauren. None of her lines or monologues came off as scripted in the slightest, and her penultimate monologue where she convincingly cried had the audience enraptured in her performance. David Mason as Lewis became increasingly more frantic and jittery as his story progressed, and Jack Ellis successfully portrayed a very believable father struggling to bridge the gap between himself and his daughter, managing to be a character that was simultaneously unlikeable and endearing. Laura Wolczyk played Zoe, the most poetic of the four characters, and gave a wonderful performance throughout, particularly in the very moving spoken word pieces that bookended the play.

“Heath’s writing captured the disconnect between father and daughter beautifully”

The relationship between Zoe and her father was heartbreakingly awkward, particularly the scene where Zoe and Arthur go for a meal together, and the phone call between them near the end of the play. Heath’s writing captured the disconnect between father and daughter beautifully, and Wolczyk and Ellis really brought the writing to life, creating some very poignant and bittersweet scenes.

“The characters began to breach these boundaries”

The staging was very unique, and worked very well. The back left corner was plastered with newspaper, which continued like a waterfall down the wall, spilling out onto the floor. Multitudes of books littered the back wall of the stage, and three long sheets of red fabric with black lines cutting across covered the three walls of the black box theatre. Each character seemed to have a designated space on the stage – Arthur on the left with his armchair, Zoe by the back wall surrounded by her books, Lewis in the back right corner and Lauren by the right wall. As the play progressed, and the seemingly individual storylines became interlinked, the characters began to breach these boundaries and move into one another’s spaces.

“Sound was used sparingly but effectively”

Sound and lighting were also used effectively throughout the production. Spotlights with different colours and intensities were used to focus the audience’s attention on certain characters which worked well. Sound was used sparingly but effectively, particularly the invasive static sounds during a particularly intense scene in the play. There were a few instances where the sound or lighting seemed to be a mistake rather than a deliberate change, and the fades to black did not really seem necessary, but overall the technical aspects certainly served to enhance the play rather than detract any merit.

Monarch is a definite must-see, particularly if you enjoy plays that take you on an emotional journey rather than an action-packed one. The acting and writing cannot be applauded enough, and overall this is an extremely successful production that may have you reaching for a tissue or two.

9/10 – Unmissable, almost perfect

Ashleigh John 

Image courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre

‘Monarch’ is running at the Nottingham New Theatre until Tuesday 28th March. For more information and where to find tickets see here

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