The cheeky crusader returns to delight a whole new generation.
Monkey…Journey to the West is truly prolific theatre featuring eccentric costumes, giant monsters and interactive videography.
Donna Abela’s stage play adaptation of the classic Chinese fable continues the battle between good and evil in grandiose style, with all elements of stagecraft combining to create a visually sumptuous, action-packed performance. Kim Carpenter’s direction fittingly replicates the cheesy, pseudo-comic style of the long running children’s show Monkey Magic; while live music performed by Peter Kennard also conjures up the 70’s style soundtrack of the TV show’s era. Monkey is perfect for those Generation X-ers with whimsical memories of rushing home from school to catch Monkey Magic on TV, who no doubt now have their own children that they want to introduce the legend to.
Interspersed with several entertaining song and dance numbers, the cross-country trek is a spectacle like none other as the team of vagabonds encounter numerous challenges in their quest. The stage opens on a rickety looking bamboo structure bordering a lit up sign board naming the production’s hero. The split stage frames a massive video projection which visually carries the distance of the characters’ journey as they travel from China to India. The backdrop effectively reinforces the theatrical diversity of the performance which features puppetry on a small and large scale to mimic the moves of the characters.
The first scene preludes the acrobatic choreography of the show, as The Kingdom of Heaven banishes the Monkey king to imprisonment in the earthly confines of a stone tomb. There he must wait for five centuries until he is released by a holy monk journeying to retrieve the three ancient scriptures from Leiyin Temple on Vulture Peak. Tasked with restoring virtuousness to the people of China who have lost their way, Tripitaka and his three disciples, Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy must navigate their way through demons and monsters, all intent on feasting upon Tripitaka’s holy flesh.
As the sold out opening night at the Canberra Playhouse on Thursday indicated, our fascination with the Monkey legend has not diminished and if anything, demonstrates that our craving for quirky and fallible heroes will no doubt continue with the next generation. Given the very short season in Canberra, hopefully Monkey will reincarnate again in the capital soon.
Monkey's journey is timeless entertainment through the ages. Family-friendly shows underpinned by a strong moral message and displaying an entertaining blend of theatrics is what the world of theatre needs more of.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Monkey…Journey to the West
Director: Kim Carpenter
23 – 25 March, 2015