Matthew Warchus on A Monster Calls

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I have a vivid memory of being taken to Windsor Castle when I was a young boy. There were crowds of tourists and I was obviously small but I remember being lifted up to see the red-uniformed guard standing motionless in his sentry box, rifle with bayonet at his side. I was terrified. I can’t remember if I cried but I probably did because I’d had a similar reaction to being taken to see Father Christmas in a grotto in a department store. There I definitely cried to be please, please taken home rather than visit Santa! In both cases, of course, a parental hand took hold of mine and gently led me towards the terrifying mysterious figure. I can really remember this feeling. Not a cheesy feeling of overcoming my fear at all but one of being led gently — clutching a strong, safe hand — to face the ‘monster’ at close quarters… and being able (amazingly) to cope.

I don’t know about you, but I have also always been afraid of death. Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls is a remarkable book. It takes us by our trembling hand and leads us to stand face to face, at close quarters, with much of what we most fear. I asked Sally Cookson to take on the adaptation of this story because I knew she had the just the right sort of open-hearted style — the right ‘strong and safe’ hand — to lead the audience on this cathartic journey and render it surprisingly uplifting. She has a wonderful track record of joyous work which celebrates theatre, storytelling, honesty and truth. And her work is ensemble work. It understands the power of one group enacting a tale for another group of listeners.

I think Sally and her team are a great match for this very special story. They understand the potential healing power of theatre very well. How this power is rooted in the shared experience. So we go into the darkness hand in hand, we arrive face to face with the scariest monster and, together… (amazingly) we can cope.

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