Does the past define our future? Do we have any control over who we are and what we become? These are the questions that Monster, written by Abigail Hood, is looking for answers to, and they are not simple. Unsurprisingly, the story created to inspire that questioning is not for the faint-hearted.

Credit: Ben Wilkin

“Glasgow. 2006. A Wasteland”, the synopsis begins. And it sure feels as such. In what looks like an abandoned rubbish dump, Kayleigh (Abigail Hood) and Zoe (Caitlin Fielding) religiously meet after school in an attempt to, we quickly find out, momentarily escape the degrading state of their own lives – reflected by the environment around them. With an abusive mother at home and no prospects for the future, Kay finds comfort, and the love she lacks, in Zoe. But she holds on so tightly to that co-dependency that the slightest chance of losing Zoe sets her on a rampage which leads to a horrific crime that will haunt the characters forever – and hang in the air above the audience’s head until the very last second.

With a 12-year time jump between Act I and Act II, Monster is a hard cut between the mindset that leads to an irreversible act of violence and how the aftermath plays an eternal role in everyone’s lives from then on. It makes you anxiously consider the colossal changes that come out of split-second decisions, and that’s a triumph of the play. But although that’s enough to leave you tense for most of the show, Act I drags its feet for a bit and it’s hard to connect with the relationships it’s trying to sell. They either feel too foolish – despite Zoe literally acknowledging how smart Kay is – or way too brief in the case of their teacher’s, Miss Hastie (Emma Keele), attempts to help the girls see beyond their traumas.

Hood tries to unweave a series of very complex relationships but never really analyses the intricacy of each. It feels like a showcase, an exploration of the surface level accompanied by a messy soundtrack. That being said, it’s really interesting to follow Kayleigh on her mental journey, by far the most fully realised character in the show.

The chilling performances all around almost compensate for the need of tidying up the overall piece. Almost…

Monster is truly unsettling in its progression as you can slowly recognise real life in this horrendous fantasy reality, that began feeling like a distant dystopia. Provocative and unafraid of being brutal, I feel like it’s worth saying it again: not for the faint-hearted.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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