Arts Reviews

Monkey @ NNT Quarantine Season

This virtual performance piece Monkey, written by Libby Horobin and Jake Levy, perfectly captures the struggles of lockdown and the desperate need for human interaction over a Zoom pub quiz.

The play centres around a group of five friends trying to overcome their own boredom in a virtual quiz that has become familiar to so many of us. With power dynamics underpinning the friendships, and one particular friend “Danny”, played by Charlie Bellwood, dealing with an escalating drug addiction, it’s not long before tensions arise and arguments break out.

The editors, Caetano Capurro and Charlotte Smith, helped to create a piece that felt both immersive and relevant

During a time where the theatre industry has suffered, it’s amazing to see the quality of work put into a virtual production. Having a video-chat format allows the viewer to really engage with the performance; it feels like we are a part of the zoom call ourselves. The lag and delay that occasionally happens in the audio realistically portrays the frustrating aspects of attempting to have a social life in 2020. The editors, Caetano Capurro and Charlotte Smith, helped to create a piece that felt both immersive and relevant.

Without giving away any spoilers, the last 2 minutes or so of the production focused on “Des” (Reilly Salmon) walking in the woods; which although was different from the video-chat format, still felt intimate and pertinent to lockdown. Perhaps too many blackout cuts were used in this scene, but it did add to the overall underlying sad and heavy tone within that scene.

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DANNY in MONKEY 05/08/2020.

A post shared by MONKEY – 05/08/20 (@monkeynnt) on

The themes of drug addiction, friendship and alienation of communication over lockdown were woven together beautifully. Eloise Dooley, who played Ava (the only female character), was brilliant at portraying the emotional stress and vulnerability her character goes through. When Ava struggles against the other characters’ flippant reactions to the story of a traumatic experience her boyfriend went through, her reactions showcase the anger and disbelief perfectly.

Horobin and Levy’s script is fresh, relevant and entertaining

The whole cast worked naturally together; as the gradual deterioration of their friendships felt realistic in the struggle to stay connected during our now socially-distanced norm. Bellwood and Salmon’s characters were left on the video-chat last, and the conflict that Salmon’s character has between dealing with his friend’s addiction and his own moral compass highlights the genuine devastating impacts that addiction can have on a friendship.

Horobin and Levy’s script is fresh, relevant and entertaining. Their original piece is a fresh perspective on the definition of what theatre actually is and allows the viewer to be thoroughly engaged in a performance that is both incredibly relatable and exciting. Although there are a few moments where the dialogue feels slightly unnatural, this could be due to the presentation of it being in a video-chat style, and doesn’t negate from the overall quality and brilliance this performance has to offer.

This play has proved to be an innovative addition to the NNT’s Quarantine Season and has changed the way in which we view theatre. If you’re looking for a great way to spend half an hour, then I thoroughly recommend checking out Monkey, which premieres on Wednesday 5th August at 7:30pm.

Jasmin Lemarie

In article images and featured image courtesy of @monkeynnt via Instagram.com. No changes made to this image. 

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