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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Monster in the Hall, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

The Monster in the Hall

Citizens, Glasgow
4 out of 5

Where Midsummer was a lo-fi indie b-side and Yellow Moon an extended blues lament, David Greig's The Monster in the Hall takes its cue from shimmering 60s girl-group pop. In its story about a 16-year-old whose mother died in a motorbike accident, it nods to the melodramatic roar of Leader of the Pack, except, where the Shangri-Las gave us baroque teen tragedy, Greig gives us social-work leaflets, internet roleplay games and a hard-rocking Norwegian anarchist. Every time the four actors drop into Phil Spector harmonies, it's a fair bet the story will take a decidedly unromantic – if funny – turn.

The monster in the hall, as a meta-theatrical voiceover helpfully explains, is both a metaphor for the young girl's fear of the unknown and a reference to her dad's vintage motorbike, which he cares for rather better than his mouse-infested kitchen. The bike is an excuse for generation-gap comedy as well as being a rev-driven smokescreen for a fragile portrait of a young carer coping uncomplainingly with her father's worsening multiple sclerosis.

Where many a writer would have tackled this theme sanctimoniously, Greig treats it with heady irreverence, acknowledging the truth of the dilemma while recognising a teenage girl has other matters to deal with – not least the effeminate boy who wants a simulated blow-job outside the chip shop. Life was never so complicated for the Shirelles.

All this, in Guy Hollands' TAG theatre production, is brilliantly realised in bare-bones narrative style by Gemma McElhinney, David Carlyle, Beth Marshall and Keith Macpherson, working at high velocity and accompanying each other with amplified sound effects. They are a tightly drilled ensemble, passionate, playful and yet serious, gripping us one minute, cracking us up the next, before melting our hearts with a happy ending of pure girl-group dreaminess.
© Mark Fisher 2010

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