Upon entering this show, one was first struck by the grey and white cut-out set which looked like illustrations from a Dr Seuss book that’s gone over to the dark side. Next you noticed the heads, as the cast members took it in turn to pop their faces, concealed with animalistic masks, around the scenery. And thus, from the beginning, a slightly spooky atmosphere was created, appropriate for a performance about hunting down monsters.
After a while it became apparent that the characters onstage are the mysteriously abandoned children from the village of Wonkey Bracket. Attempting to terrify each other with ever escalating scary stories about horrible monsters, the troop moved together as one, capturing a sense of these creatures of folk legend. Dressed in puritanical black and white, this young theatre company was by turns humorous and atmospheric, creating a slightly gothic tale of small town horror.
Despite this dark tone, the show did not feel scary and one was always reassured by the sense of play underlying all of the characters’ actions. The monstrous legends feel like children playing and only the littlest of children scurried back to their parents when some sudden movement was made. Even when we begin to actually meet the monsters there is no sense of real trepidation as we discover that they are far less terrifying than their gruesome reputations, underlining the way in which the story explores how a monstrous legend can grow and grow and grow. Playing with the relationship between truth and fiction also helps to explain the increasingly sinister disappearance of the parents, with the children being unable to remember whether they disappeared hours, months, years or minutes ago.
The whole collage of folk tales building up monster upon monster in ever overlapping layers feels like some Tim Burtonish project, with my main complaint being that the picture feels unfinished due to such an abrupt ending. Nonetheless, this original play provides a creative and deliciously dark glimpse into the realm of things that go bump in the night.