by Laura Ferguson
The whitewash sliding doors open and the cast come out. The smoky makeup, fishnets, black, white and pink theme, make me think the 7-strong (for the deadly sins maybe?) cast have transported to BATS from some strange amalgam of rave /nu metal German dungeon club, a host of succubi and incubi here to tempt our mortal flesh with a siren’s song. They begin singing and King Tantalus take me now, wow! They have some power in them there lungs! Sitting in the front row I felt like Scott Pilgrim getting blasted with a wave of delicious sound by the Katayanagi twins. The Beetlejuice/Rocky Horror/Stevie Wonder Superstition medley was a great way to kickoff the show and show off the talent in the performers.
Thoroughly impressed and doing a happy slug wriggle in my seat, I sat with rapt attention as Jade Thomson sang a solo of Dead Mom from Beetlejuice the Musical. It was fun and angsty; Thomson sang clearly and added a kind of youthful fun to the song despite the rather dark lyrics. This start led us down a captivating path of pure talent and entertaining staging. The director, Ben Emerson, did a fabulous job keeping the stage lively and riveting even with only one person on it. The use of fans, dynamic lighting from Tane Hipango and eerie smoke creating this graveyard-in-an-80s-power-ballad vibe that I absolutely loved.
This show is like a Hallowe’en treat box of Cadbury Favourites: it’s basically all highlights and as much as I loved every second, everyone has their favourite Favourites. Natasha McAllister’s haunting rendition of Radiohead’s Creep was utterly devastating in the best way possible and her D’Lish boudoir gown had me salivating throughout the performance. The range McAllister managed in the performance was just outstanding I had the ASMR spine tingle as she reached the highest notes. I adored the Boyz II Men version of Adele’s All I Ask with undulating harmonising from Joseph Mara, Devon Neiman and Jade Thomson. Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance being turned into a tango-inspired Latin number was sultry and alluring with guttural intonations from Joseph Mara and a coquettish mewling from Natasha McAllister. Paired alongside the strong voice of Devon Neiman, this song went down a treat with the audience. Caitlin Penrose’s version of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was sweet and made me appreciate the song better than I have before and Sweet Transvestite from Rocky Horror Picture Show sung in an Aretha Franklin style by Jonathan Morgan and Kree McMillan was incredible and the one-man band at the back, Daniel Hayles bringing out the trombone was one of my absolute highlights. A special shout out to choreographers, Natasha McAllister, Emily Downs and Leigh Evans who included the original dance from Britney’s Oops… I Did It Again, that was brilliant.
Monster Songs was not only about the supernatural sinners and saints, devils and heathens alike that hide in the shadows, but also hit upon monsters we encounter everyday. Domestic violence was touched upon in an emotionally charged Leave, Luanne and MacAllister’s Creep reminded us that sometimes the monsters of this world live inside out, clawing at our self-esteem and trapping us with depression and anxiety. It brought a human touch to the show that at times left me breathless of having been 100% that bitch whose insecurities are plucked and inspected as if by a Great Old One before being thrust painfully back into my helpless form. It was these times of groundedness that I connected most with the show.
My dark lull of a crappy work day was blown away by Monster Songs and left me walking home with a bounce in my step and a smile that wouldn’t go away. I think if Monster Songs truly had a supernatural power, it would be turning negative energy into positivity. Or, those sneaky succubi siphoned my psychic energy away to feast upon. To be honest, I’d let them do it again.
Monster Songs is playing in BATS theatre at 8.30pm until the 30th of October. You can find tickets here.