Have you ever attended a press night?
First of all let me tell you that the chance you will get good tickets is quite low, but it is still possible to get tickets. On the other hand you see the play before you hear all the different opinions about it. We try to stay unbiased, but the only way to stay unbiased is to exclude oneself from the social life, which is not the best solution I think. So when you see the play on the press night you are unbiased and enjoy or hate it naturally without preset expectations.
The Old Vic first opened in 1818 as Royal Coburg Theatre and was targeting the “common” people of London, bringing “high art to the masses”. In 1833, the theatre was refurbished and reopened as a patent theatre with the new name, Royal Victoria, in honour of Princess (later Queen) Victoria. The theatre presented mostly melodramas. The theatre went through major refurbishment, financial turmoil and changed many hands in the 1970s and ended up under the management of social reformer Emma Cons’ established Coffee Tavern Movement. In 1891, the freehold was bought by the charity, the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation. The Old Vic Shakespeare Company was formed under director Ben Greet in 1914. In 1926, The Old Vic, a popular local nickname, was adopted as the theatre’s official title. In the early 1930s The Old Vic alternated drama, opera and ballet with Saddlers’ Wells until 1934, when opera and ballet moved to the latter. The theatre was closed during the Second World War after it was hit by a direct bomb. In 1946, the Joint Council of The Old Vic and National Theatre was established. The theatre was reopened in 1951 with the performance of Twelfth Night. In 1976, the National Theatre company moved to the new building on the South Bank and The Old Vic was leased to visiting companies. In 1982, the theatre was put up for sale through a sealed bid. Canadian entrepreneur Ed Mirvish outbid Andrew Lloyd Webber and spent £2.5 million restoring the building. The Old Vic hosted many successful plays and musicals in the 1980s and 1990s. The Mirvish family put the theatre on the market in 1998 and The Old Vic Theatre Trust 2000, a registered charity set up by Sally Greene acquired it. In 2003, The Old Vic became a production house again with new company created and many new plays, musicals and varieties performed in the past 18 years. This year The Old Vic celebrates 200 year anniversary.
Story begins with Conor O’Malley waking up in the middle of the night from what has become his usual nightmare. Conor’s mother is struggling with cancer and Conor has taken some of the daily chores at home. Conor is bullied at school, which he takes in silence and keeps it secret from his mum and the school teacher. Every day seems to be similar, except for his mum getting worse. Conor has the same nightmare again, but this time when he wakes up, he hears a monster calling him. Conor’s window overlooks the church graveyard with a yew tree and that tree turns out to be the voice calling him. The tree walks up to his window and tells Conor that it will tell him three true stories, after which it is going to be Conor’s turn to tell his story, otherwise the monster will eat him. The yew tree tells the first story about a prince, who killed his fiancee to blame it on his step-grandmother, witch queen, to overthrow her from the thrown and rule his country wisely. Conor hates the story and to add to his disappointment, he finds out that his grandmother will be moving in with them to help his mum. He does not deal well with his grandmother, but has no other choice but to move in with her as his mum gets hospitalised. Conor’s father flies from New York on the request of Conor’s mother to prepare him for the worst. Conor’s dad seems too much preoccupied with his new family in New York and he does not want to take Conor with him due to the lack of space in his small flat in New York. Conor has another visit from the monster that tells its second story of a parson, who was ready to give up the yew tree he had protected before, to an apothecary he had condemned before, to save his children. As a punishment the yew tree destroys the parson’s house and Conor helps with the destruction, smashing his grandmother’s clock and furniture to pieces. He does not get punishment from his grandmother, although he is eager to, instead his grandmother takes him to see his mum at the hospital. Conor’s mum tells him that the doctors tried everything and there is nothing else left to try. Conor is visited by the monster during his lunch break at school. The tree tells him a story of an invisible man, who became visible. Conor, enraged with his mother’s terminal diagnosis screams that he became visible and attacks the school bully. Now it is Conor’s turn to tell his story, which he fears to do, but he tells the nightmare he’s been having every night of his mother falling off the cliff and even though he tries to hold the grip, eventually he lets her go. Conor admits that even though he loves his mother dearly he wants the whole thing to be over. He goes to the hospital with his grandmother to say final good-bye to his mum, she passes away and takes all the pain.
A Monster Calls was written by Patrick Ness based on the original idea of Siobhan Dowd. The idea was conceived while Siobhan Dowd was struggling with cancer and the book was published posthumously. The stage adaptation was written in 2017 and the play was previewed at the Bristol Old Vic on the 7th of July before it premiered at The Old Vic 10 days later.
Director: Sally Cookson
Producers: The Old Vic
Casting: Jessica Ronane
020 3362 0408
The Old Vic, the Cut, London SE1 8NB
Bought my ticket from The Old Vic’s website. £5 for a side seat in the upper circle. £5 is quite tempting but there is limited leg room, a rail in front and if you sit back you won’t be able to see almost anything. But if you lean forward and hold on the rail you won’t miss any part of the performance.
Running time is 2 hours 20 minutes
The Theatre Rat