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Pre theatre meal was at the stone cave, the food is excellent but it would have been much better if we hadn't had to rush so much – service seemed very slow this time. Monsters is the story, of Robert Thompson and John Venables, the killers of Jamie Bulger. It includes sections of the real police interviews with the killers. I picked it partly because of a morbid curiosity and partly because the Arcola has been very good in the past. It starts ominously, with spotlit actors repeating the same question ... “I don't understand?”, “I don't understand?”,”I don't understand?”,”Why you would come to watch this”. It’s quite a good question but a bit late now. Jerkily and using darkness and harsh lighting the actors work their way through different sections of the play. Some is acted - where they play out parts of the police interviews. Then other sections are like weird commentary on the state of society or these strange section where all the actors talked over each other - the sort of thing you'd get at a 6th form drama play. Then there are strange stand up bits where one of the actors stands on stage with a single microphone – but he doesn’t tell any jokes. Overall then a different type of play to what we are used to. A bit preachy in parts and a little confusing but some parts were interesting. Strangest part was during one of the really heavy interview sections there was a clip from ‘the big breakfast’ in the background. Surreal. No sign of Mathew Kelly at this one, probably for the best.


The gist of this was to implicate the 30-odd people who saw Bulger being led away by Thompson and Venables in his murder, as if by not stopping what they didn't know was about to happen made them partly guilty of it too. Then this theme is extended to suggest that by going to see the play, members of the audience are implicated in a common guilt for being prepared to witness but not intervene. Well, I refuse to feel any guilt because I didn't choose it - it's all Nick's fault! And anyway, if it's valid to question why the audience are prepared to go see it, I'd like to know why the actors are prepared to take part in it, and the playwright prepared to write it in the first place.

Apart from the guilt issue, I think the other main theme was about trying to make us relate to the boys and their families, and remember that they aren't just part of a story, but are real. The parents are out of their depth in trying to know how they should feel, let alone describe it. The boys are young kids who don't realise the gravity of what they've done. I think this was all an effort to humanise them, but I don't think it quite came across because of the distractions of the mish-mash of delivery and voices and everything else going on.


I was cockahoop when Nick chose this as I'm v interested in the psychology of murderers and particularly child murderers.
There was the added benefit of being at the Arcola which I heart.
This play had lots going for it but it failed to deliver for me. It seemed to be built around the premise that passers-by, the audience, the whole of society were to blame for James Bulger's death. I can't say that I came out of the theatre either culpable for James's death or a 'monster' however hard the theatre production tried.
I found it very self-indulgent, pretentious and needlessly preachy.
Yes, a terrible thing happened. Yes, people who saw Venables and Thompson perhaps should have acted on their suspicions and yes, teachers and the authorities should have spotted and acted upon some of the warning signs earlier. But I think most people would accept that and so the play seemed to grate.
The innovate style was refreshing and actually quite clear and easy to follow. The acting was also impeccable -particularly that of the woman with blonde hair.
So all in all I should have liked it but I really didn't.
The Stone Cafe was as tasty as ever but quite slow.

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