Reviewed by Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin
Inside BATS’ The Stage we have a high throne against the back wall (set and costume design by Gemma Tweedie, set construction by Lucas Neal and Victoria Gridley), surrounded by velvet curtains, and accompanied by a tall candelabra. Before the show begins, one of the team brings in a bucket of gifts from outside the theatre and empties it onto a table to the left of the stage. Audience has had the opportunity to bring a gift and I am excited to see what The King does with them. Monckton’s works have taken him around the world so expectations are high.
Monckton manages to make everything pay off. If a mime sequence seems like it’s dragging on, you learn to trust early that Monckton has a joke around the corner, and a satisfying call back later down the line. They’ve incorporated circus tricks well into the framing of the performance, nothing feels jarring or tacked on. The show doesn’t really have a plot and doesn’t really need one. It’s fun. It’s really, really fun. It’s just an awesome time in a room with a bunch of people laughing because a pro isn’t trying to do anything more than what they are extremely good at. We’re comfortable, we’re in stitches, this guy is great.
This time The King eventually makes his way to the table and begins excitedly opening the presents. The fun that Monckton has upon opening and playing with these gifts is a great strength of the show. Monckton will occasionally spy out to the audience whenever an audience member laughs really hard or just can’t stop giggling, and it’s this kind of connection that Monckton has knuckled down on with these gifts. The sense that we are all here and in on whatever is happening, we’re just having fun together. The only thing leaving me wanting from this section of the show is perhaps more circus tricks that incorporated the gifts people got. I can imagine it being difficult to incorporate impromptu circus tricks with random trinkets on the fly, as well as having those tricks fit into the framing of the show but, hey! If anybody could do it, I trust this team.
Monckton shares the stage with Tess Sullivan as the loyal, existential knight. Sullivan does an electric, Monty-Python-esque, hilarious job as Jonathan, uplifted by and uplifting Monckton. On stage, the two are a dynamic which never gets in the way of itself. Perhaps a next step for our Patean Player is helming an ensemble cast in a comedy/circus performance? Something to hope for.
This show is already shaping up to be another excellent addition to Moncktons canon. Rumour has it that he has a programme to teach other performers the physicality of his shows, and I’m sure this will be recommended reading in the Thomas Monckademy.
The King of Taking is a part of the 2022 Fringe Festival at BATS Theatre but has unfortunately had to cancel the rest of its season. Find more info on the show here.