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Theatre review: Lost Monsters

Phil Key on why the Laurence Wilson première, starring Joe McGann, reminds him of Harold Pinter

Published on May 30th 2009.

Theatre review: Lost Monsters

ONE of the most bizarre sights in the North West can be seen by motorists on the M62: a farm in the middle of a motorway. It was obviously an inspiration for Liverpool playwright Laurence Wilson in his new play, Lost Monsters, premièred at the Everyman.

His setting is an apparently deserted house in the middle of a motorway, nicely suggested in a pre-curtain sequence by a model house, around which a toy car continuously circles.

A shadowy figure enters, packs the model in a suitcase, and exits. So far so strange and that is how this comedy/drama continues – strangely.

Wilson's four principal characters are the sorts you would not want to sit next to you on the bus.

First on is Mickey, a shaven-headed tough guy who enters the house thanks to a jemmy and a window. He opens the door to allow in pregnant Sian, a Goth wearing a Minnie the Minx-style striped top and black leggings, and Jonesy, a hyperactive autistic savant with an incredible mind for maths, words and etymology.

It seems they are escaping the police and Mickey is bleeding from a nasty arm wound which, we learn later, has been caused by an encounter with a vicious dog.

But they are not alone. They are soon joined by the owner of the house, Richard, an eccentric loner who is escaping from the world he hates and fears.

Wilson mixes all four characters together and puts them through theatrical hoops which creates a strange drama, often funny, sometimes sad, occasionally violent but always with an outlandish touch.

Richard, the eccentric, for example, is fearful of nuclear war and keeps a supply of tinned food with the labels missing (they contain everything from octopus to alphabet spaghetti) and a special space suit to protect him again contamination. As a failed bee-keeper, there are also rows of jars containing various preserved bees while, underneath the floorboards, are hoards of dead rats.

Jonesy, a simple-minded lad who talks twenty to the dozen and leaps all over the place, loves it all. Bees and insects in general are favourite subjects for his racing mind.

The three interlopers have joined forces by accident, rather than design, but make a peculiar team, always on the move around the country, sleeping rough with Jonesy, earning their money by working the fruit machines with his alert mathematical mind.

Wilson has an astute ear for dialogue but, even more, has a taste for the unusual. He takes his characters on a strange journey and is always springing surprises. You might scratch your head at some of the goings-on but you are never bored.

The plot is slight - will the three abandon the house and go on their way, or accept Richard's invitation to stay? - but around it are weaved the stories of curious lives and strange tales.

Each character is distinct and played well by the four-strong cast: Nick Moss is brutally aggressive as the tough guy Mickey; Kevin Trainor wildly interesting as Jonesy, in a vocal and athletic tour-de-force; a bearded Joe McGann delightfully downbeat as the philosophical Richard whose rant against the world includes MPs' expenses. And while Rebecca Ryan - familiar to viewers of Shameless - is well cast as more-or-less sensible Sian, the role does not have quite the glitz of her fellow performers'.

The production is blessed with a great design from Simon Daw, a grim house which seems straight out of the Brontes, while Matt Wilde directs with a fast pace and a sense of the ridiculous.

A weird soundtrack helps to underline the eccentricity of the setting.

It is a brave piece, in some ways reminiscent of Harold Pinter's early plays (but without the long pauses) in that reality is heightened almost to the realm of fantasy.

The ending is disappointingly trite (one of those in which everyone learns a lesson) but as a piece of drama Lost Monsters is really quite amazing, a play to be savoured and enjoyed.


*Lost Monsters runs at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, until June 13. 0151 709 4776

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what?May 28th 2009.

goodwoodMay 28th 2009.

There are deep sociological reasons why scousers are portrayed so negatively and treated as scum by modern media. The mistake is to ignore the reasons, it needs to be confronted, addressed and resolved. This is the responsibility of the schools, council and local parents. Although given the lamentable record of all 3 of the former it is likely the vilification of liverpool shall continue indefinitely.

AnonymousMay 28th 2009.

Really enjoyed it, great piece for anyone who likes new work, and off beat theatre (think playhouse studio in the 80's). Fed up though of it always being a 'scally scouser'

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