Review: November Spawned A Monster (Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre / Sydney Independent Theatre Company)

sitco1Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 28 – Nov 15, 2014
Playwright: Alex Broun
Director: Robert Chuter
Cast: James Wright
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Morrissey’s music courses through the veins of his fanatic devotees, and William is a young Melbournite who has the rock star’s records underscoring key events of his life. We meet him at a time of mourning, having recently encountered a deep personal loss. The struggle for clarity, direction and a new lease on life is a familiar experience, and Alex Broun’s script is an honest representation of that shared phenomenon. Melancholia is created beautifully in a plot that takes us from everyday banality to extraordinary circumstances, with gentle humour and a generous slew of Morrissey songs that provide poignant irony, and a remarkable coolness.

Also very cool, is Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design for the production, which gives a sense of differentiation between scenes so that we perceive a variety of moods as the leading man goes through scenes of transformation and evolution. Brockman’s work is intelligent and sophisticated, giving the show a visceral sensuality that connects with Morrissey’s omnipresence. Robert Chuter’s direction of the one-man show cleverly finds every opportunity to manufacture shifts in tone, preventing the production from ever being monotonous in spite of its monologue format. Chuter finds nuance in William’s journey and depicts the human condition at a time of sorrow with great sensitivity.

In the role of William is James Wright, who has the challenging task of memorising an eighty-minute play entirely on his own, along with singing a big selection of the idol’s highly idiosyncratic greatest hits at regular intervals. Wright is an enthusiastic performer who has the ability to be engaging, but his confidence levels are inconsistent, and on this stage, there is simply nowhere to hide when the actor’s consciousness is fractured, however briefly. Notwithstanding its energetic rhythm, November Spawned A Monster is chiefly about pain, which Wright does not sufficiently embody. It is almost a metaphysical quality that can be perceived when a person lives with a broken heart, and on the stage, that quality can be forcefully seductive, but that brand of charisma which we can see in Morrissey, is sadly absent in this show.

“Youth is wasted on the young”, said George Bernard Shaw, but William’s story is a reminder that feeling stranded in one’s youth is important for achieving an understanding of grief, and therefore, gaining an appreciation of all that is significant in life. It is not all a bed of roses, but that’s how people grow up.