A Monster Calls…and the audience weeps

It was only six months ago that Warminster School was full of dancing chimney sweeps and Edwardian nannies. A Monster Calls, however, was a very different production. The novel and this subsequent stage production were inspired by the writer Siobhan Dowd who died of cancer before she had a chance to complete her story. Her editor then asked Patrick Ness to complete it for her. Her illness runs through the story as a young boy has to deal with both his mother’s cancer and teenage issues such as broken friendships and bullying. His struggles are not helped by the regular appearance – at 12:07 – of a monster, the yew tree that dominates the view from his house.

The staging of this story could be fraught with difficulty but Mr Jackson, with his first school production, pulled it off admirably. There were a number of wonderful set pieces, particularly the fight between Connor and the vicious bully Harry as well as Connor's destruction of his grandmother’s room. However, the final scene, where Connor confesses his fears to the Monster and is able to say goodbye to his mother was an absolute tear-jerker. Many of the audience were wiping away tears as the lights came up.

Much of that was down to the emotional performances of Charlie Bolton as Connor and Olivia Wallis as his mother, both of whom had to cope with the very mature subject matter which they managed with tremendous sensitivity. Joe McQuilton as the Monster was able to dominate his scenes, bringing an air of menace as well as some humour to the stage. The stories he told allowed Connor to come to terms with his loss and recognise that things are not always as clear-cut as we would like.

The rest of the ensemble did a fantastic job of creating the different moods of the piece and special mention must be given to Lexie Drake as Grandma, Alfie Dackcombe as Connor’s ineffectual Dad and the bullying trio of Max Curnock, Ben Drummond and Alice Grieg who imparted an air of violence tinged with doubt as they questioned their own behaviour.

Mention must also be made of the technical crew. This was a production which required spot-on sound and light cues, and pupils Bobby Webb and Jamie Baker did a tremendous job coordinating the music, sound effects and back projections.

Whilst there is always space for large-scale musical productions, it is good to know that Warminster School can also produce moving, memorable shows like A Monster Calls which tackle complex adult themes. Everyone connected with this show should be extremely proud of themselves.

Jeremy Robertson​, Teacher of English

Click here for production photographs