"an entrancing whirlwind of character"
by Jen Soame for remotegoat on 10/03/17

The Monkey begins in a relatively calm scene where three friends are waiting for an lift; relatively because it still involves two attempted stranglings. This is an indication of the frenetic characters involved and the mayhem of the 24hrs in their lives to come and it is executed brilliantly.

The Monkey highlights a world where honour and dishonour are interchanged as drugs and money take priority; a world with continuously flowing drugs and money as long as you know where to find it, or know someone else that does. Underneath all the surfaces though each individual looks for respect, pride, rank amongst peers and companionship although some want and need it more than others, and some will do anything they can to get it. Old friendships are everything though whether they are beneficial for you or not.

Morgan Watkins is entrancing as Tel, bundling issues around criminality, brain trauma injury, drug addiction and psychosis into his chaotic and unpredictable personality and the rhyming slang that seems to waterfall from his lips. He sweeps between aggressive, humourous and almost charming with ease and is at the same time exhausting and exhilarating to watch. All four characters play tension very well and while some of the scenes could potentially feel long and drawn out, the acting and character chemistry instead make it highly tensioned, edge of your seat viewing to find out what could happen next.

This is a hard-hitting production that straddles the dark humour line perfectly and is excellent insight into a world of crime and addiction. The fastmoving dialogue creates an even more colourful journey using original slang and having an almost lyrical quality to it and the cast even described familiarising themselves with it as ‘surrendering to a new language’. This is a great collaboration and deserves to be experienced.

This is the second of two feature-length plays at Theatre503 as part of Synergy’s Homecoming festival. As well as regular workshops and productions in prisons and with ex-prisoners they also encourage the work of script writers and this is ex-offender John Stanley’s full length professional debut.

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