A Monster Calls

Previewed 7 July 2018, Opened 17 July 2018, Closed 25 August 2018 at the Old Vic Theatre

A major stage adaptation of Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls in London for a strictly limited two month season

Thirteen-year-old Conor and his mum have managed just fine since his dad moved to America. But now his mum's very sick and she's not getting any better. His grandmother won't stop interfering and the kids at school won't look him in the eye. Then, one night, at seven minutes past midnight, Conor is woken by something at his window. A monster has come walking. It's come to tell Conor tales from when it walked before. And when it's finished, Conor must tell his own story and face his deepest fears.

Please note: Recommended for ages 10 and above

The cast features Matthew Tennyson as 'Conor', Stuart Goodwin as 'Monster', Marianne Oldham as 'Mum', and Selina Cadell as 'Grandma', with Hammed Animashaun as 'Anton', Nandi Bhebhe as 'Miss Godfrey', Matt Costain as 'Mr Marl', Georgia Frost as 'Sully', Felix Hayes as 'Dad', John Leader as 'Harry', Witney White as 'Lily', Jonathan Holby, and Tessa Wood, with musicians Benji Bower and Will Bower. Directed by Sally Cookson with movement by Dan Canham, aerial direction by Matt Costain, sets by Michael Vale, projections by Dick Straker, costumes by Katie Sykes, puppetry by Laura Cubitt, lighting by Aideen Malone, music by Benji Bower, and sound by Mike Beer. A co-production with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. Devised by the company from the novel by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea by Siobhan Dowd.

When this production opened here at the Old Vic Theatre in July 2018, Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph praised "Sally Cookson's typically inventive and stirring (group-devised) adaptation of A Monster Calls" that "draws you into the wonder and pathos of the boy's bewilderment and grief across two fleet, fluid, spellbinding hours." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail wrote that the combination of "an imaginative staging by director Sally Cookson and a central performance of rare, affecting simplicity by Matthew Tennyson as Conor and you have one of those productions that leaves you feeling still tender and slightly altered when next day you awake to pale, daunting dawn." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper held that "Sally Cookson's stage adaptation of Patrick Ness's prize-winning 2011 novel is a wondrous feat of group-devised communal story-telling... Matthew Tennyson's performance as Conor is extraordinarily moving... Magnificently dramatised." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standards aid that, although "there's a lot of effort and detail, but for much of the time it's too much: too much movement and certainly too much music from the onstage band, as barely a line is spoken without emphatic underscoring." Dominic Maxwell in the Times highlighted that "this strange, soaring yet miraculously unsentimental adaptation of Patrick Ness's book needs seeing. It is heartbreaking, spectacular, harsh, happy... It deserves to be a monster hit." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times described how, "in Sarah Cookson's hands it becomes an exceptionally moving piece of theatre... This beautiful, heartbreaking show is a cathartic story not just for children but for anyone who has experienced the raw pain of loss." Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that "this exhilarating production has the physical inventiveness and ensemble cohesion that are Sarah Cookson's trademarks.... What really impressed me was the wit and elegance of Cookson’s staging and Michael Vale’s design."

Matthew Tennyson London theatre credtis include the role of 'Konstantin Trepliov' in Matthew Dunster's revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull in the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2015; and the role of 'Percy' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Terrace Rattigan's Flare Path at the Haymarket Theatre in 2011.

Stuart Goodwin's London stage credits include the role of 'Brendan' in Wilson Milam's production of Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at the Barbican Pit Theatre in 2001.

Marianne Oldham's West End stage credits include the role of 'Gertrude' in David Leveaux's revival of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic Theatre in 2017; and the role of 'Sheila Birling' in Stephen Daldry's revival of J B Priestly's An Inspector Calls at the Novello Theatre in 2009.

Selina Cadell's London theatre credits include the role of 'Madge' in Sean Foley's revival of Ronald Harwood's The Dresser at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2016; and the roles of 'Pope Joan' and 'Louise' in Max Stafford-Clark's original production of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls at the Royal Court Theatre in 1982 and 1983.

Sally Cookson's West End theatre credits include Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's Stick Man at the Leicester Square Theatre in 2017; Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2014 and the Duke of York's Theatre in 2015; and Michael Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt at the Duchess Theatre in 2009 and the Lyric Theatre in 2013.

"Here is a story rooted in the grimmest of realities, but also extravagant otherworldly fantasy: Conor, a 13-year-old grappling with the imminent death of his beloved single mother, summons a monster. Luckily, Sally Cookson — a director with an unmatched contemporary record of translating the page visually soaring theatre, for toddlers up — is in charge. In the opening scene, a baby is conjured up from a rolled-up dressing gown; climbing ropes become the monster's twisted yew tree, also a steering wheel and hospital wires. Cookson's regular musical collaborator, Benji Bower, provides an evocative score. Marianne Oldham's mother and Stuart Goodwin's Monster stand out. Bar minor caveats regarding the designer Michael Vale's projections, this is an exhilarating, resolutely tender imaginative feat." The Sunday Times

"This stage adaptation by Sally Cookson is very good, loyal to the novel, and has the audience snuffling by the end. But I have reservations. The demonic tree monster is an actor swathed in white ropes – very un-gnarly – and Conor’s internal emotions often feel locked inside the show’s artful choreography. The killer asset here is Matthew Tennyson, who has us totally rooting for Conor. Selina Cadell as Grandma and Marianne Oldham as Conor’s mum provide strong support. Inventively staged though this is, I’d say the extraordinary book packs a heavier punch." The Mail on Sunday

A Monster Calls in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 7 July 2018, opened on 17 July 2018 and closed on 25 August 2018