Writer: Mark Williams
Director: Kevin Lewis
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Theatr Iolo specialise in children’s and young people’s theatre and in Here Be Monsters they have created a great school holiday adventure that the family can enjoy together. With a strong script from Mark Williams’, the piece is engaging throughout with the humour pitched exactly right so that it is amusing to both children and adults alike. The cast are equally as engaging and enable the audience to use their imaginations and believe in the monsters they are fighting. Llinos Mai and Adam Scales as newly foisted upon each other step brother and sister Elfi and Ed are superb and you soon forget that they are adults playing the rôles of children. Their fun-filled, lively performances also handle well the issues surrounding their parents’ relationship and adjusting to a new family. All other rôles are skilfully played by Ceri Elen, Jenny Livsey and Richard Nichols. They all switch between characters with ease and each has their highlights. Nichols gives a wonderfully comedic performance as the father/step-father and Elen is particularly creepy in her monster rôles. It is a cliché to have step-mother and witch played by the same actress but Livsey makes the characters suitably distinct for this not to be an issue.
The lighting design by Jane Lalljee complements the atmosphere created by the cast well and really comes into its own when the shadow monsters attack; eerie and effective. It is unfortunate then that the set does not create the same atmosphere. Predominantly made up of a platform covered in plastic that is reminiscent of something you would expect to see in a school play, the audience are introduced to this as the waste ground and then props are added to fuel the imagination and transport you to different locations around town. Since there are no full set changes during the show and the props are kept at the edges of the stage in full view of the audience, one or two items integral to the plot would suffice to create each location, but instead the sides of the stage are cluttered with large amounts of props which looks messy and distracts from the fantasy world being created in the centre of the space. In spite of this, some scenes have nothing to indicate where they are taking place so it is unclear whether Elfi and Ed keep returning to the waste ground to gather their thoughts or if they are somewhere else entirely. This isn’t clarified until close to the end when they talk about having come full circle and nearly being back at the waste ground. Other aspects of the staging also lack clarity on occasions; it is not clear that they are fighting a three-headed monster until one of the characters says “it’s a three-headed monster.”
These faults aside, Here Be Monsters is an enjoyable show and is a great school holiday treat.