Tag Archives: Gillian Kirkpatrick

“Monster” at the Park Theatre

Abigail Hood’s disturbing play works hard at being hard hitting. Tackling so much trauma – including the death of a child – ensures the drama is powerful. And the show is well performed, despite the bumpy script. But be prepared, the show is not for the faint hearted.

Kayleigh and Caitlin (Hood and Zoe Douglas) are schoolgirl lovers, and their affair is well depicted. Although they are both old for their age, with difficult backgrounds, Hood manages to remind us that they are still children. The girls are endearing and the humour is strong. But laughs stop quickly, and the play explodes in an exaggerated fashion.

An episodic structure, handled at a breakneck pace by director and dramaturg Kevin Tomlinson, feels horribly rushed. There’s little wrong with any of the scenes but all are so short that none quite satisfies. Secondary characters suffer. Although well performed by Gillian Kirkpatrick and Emma Keele, Kayleigh’s mother and a well-meaning schoolteacher do not convince. The former is a religious maniac/prostitute and the latter another victim of abuse seeking to “save” the young girl. Grim is fine, but sketchy proves frustrating.

Kevin Wathen

There is a welcome change of pace after the interval. A calmer approach brings more depth. Set after Kayleigh’s release from prison, the aftermath of her crime is examined in more detail.  The scenario is contrived and the dialogue clunky, even clichéd. But observing how events have changed all the characters leads to good performances (and, since he hasn’t been mentioned yet, Kevin Wathen has a superb scene).

Might there be a too much sympathy for the monster of the title? Kayleigh is a fascinating character, from a smart girl with “no filter” to a woman genuinely haunted by what she has done. Hood conveys all this superbly, with a depiction so determined to be empathetic that it becomes bold and raises interesting questions. Despite problems in the script, which never hold the cast back, it’s interesting and brave to face the monstrous like this.

Until 20 August 2022


Photos by Ben Wilkin

“The House Of Mirrors And Hearts” at the Arcola Theatre

This new ‘chamber’ musical, a project from Eamonn O’Dwyer, is a brave and exciting examination of a damaged family. The music, performed by a quartet, is haunting and stimulating, the lyrics competent and clear, while the strong story of a mother and two daughters dealing with bereavement and a love affair, gives the show its considerable momentum.

The singing in the piece might be stronger, but the acting is superb. Gillian Kirkpatrick plays the matriarch Anna with an uncanny ability to change from a caring mother to an older alcoholic, as the play’s chronology moves around. A jerky Sondheim-style number, ‘Something For The Pain’, is superbly delivered, capturing the precarious bonhomie of the drunk. Anna’s daughters show two extreme reactions to grief: Grace Rowe’s Laura is painfully withdrawn, while Molly McGuire makes Lily a convincingly dangerous extravert. An academic who finds himself lodging with this traumatised trio (and starts a romance with one of them) isn’t as well studied: not only is his treatment of the manuscripts he is working on shocking, he’s too easily dominated. The production is lucky to have Jamie Muscato in the role – he sounds great and stakes out a space for the character.

Minor misgivings pale given the play’s strong plot. The book, worked on by Rob Gilbert with O’Dwyer, is neat and novel – a mix of gripping mystery and a spooky supernatural angle well grafted onto an intricate family drama. It reminded me a little of a Barbara Vine book, with an unsettling nostalgic feel that draws you in. There’s a level of detail that director Ryan McBryde handles well and gives the show stand out from a lot of other musicals. Be intrigued and go see.

Until 1 August 2015


Photo by Darren Bell