As is the nature of A Monster Calls, we joined students during what was to be an emotional and intimate rehearsal of the last scene in the play. Ms Mayes and Mr Williams walked and talked through the scene with our actors; supporting them with ensuring intimacy isn’t just felt on the stage, but right to the back of the theatre – it was also a chance to use props which would be playing a crucial part in the final performance.
Meeting and talking to Year 11’s Eveny who plays Grandma, Year 11’s Rose who plays Mum and Year 11’s Xander who is our Monster, you can hear more from each of them below about their past performances, how they feel about their roles in A Monster Calls and their hopes and aspirations for the production. These vibrant young students, along with James who plays Conor who we interviewed and featured last week, have all been successful in being awarded Drama scholarships at Woodbridge School next year, testament to their skills, passion, and commitment.
Year 11’s Eveny – Grandma
My first role in a School production was as Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing for Shakespeare On The Lawn; that in itself was quite challenging since I was playing a male part, and Shakespeare is completely different to this more modern production. I’ve also been a principal vocalist in Grease, and it’s almost the complete opposite of this play since you’re literally dancing and singing your way through each scene – it’s ‘up’ and open and there isn’t as much depth to the characters or the scenes as there are in A Monster Calls; clearly because of the subject matter if nothing else. Grandma is a complex character with many layers to not only her but her relationship with Conor, and they’re revealed as the story develops and progresses. It was hard to start with as she begins by being incredibly uptight and doesn’t give much away – it sounds like that might be easy to play but actually it’s quite difficult to get that right. She’s also a lot older than I am, and although I’ve always played similar roles in terms of age, it’s still challenging to learn to think and even move like someone much older than I am, when I’m on stage. But I love the challenge and I’m incredibly excited about performing!
Year 11’s Rose – Mum
If I had to sum up Mum in one word it would be – honesty. The entire play is moving towards her honesty, the honesty about her condition, about her leaving Conor and about death being the end and leaving him without her. The most prominent scene for me is when Mum finally reconciles her own issues with being honest with him – she faces the fear, for her and for him. In this scene she tells Conor she’s dying, she’s brutally honest and open with him and it’s a very special scene and moment in the play; I’m able to deliver extremely moving and powerful lines, communicating to the audience that it’s OK to be angry and upset with someone who’s terminally ill, validating emotions that perhaps some of our audience may have felt themselves – I’m looking forward to the audience making that connection with this play, this character and vice versa. It’s going to be really special and definitely very moving to play and to watch.
Year 11’s Xander – Monster
I’m well aware that this is a big character to play, and he’s very unlike me in that I prefer to be less forward and more reserved; but I’ve been able to really connect with him as a character, to develop him into who I want him to be and who the audience need to see. Previous roles for me have been more, shall we say, flamboyant, I’ve played a Teen Angel in Grease as well as Don Jon in Much Ado About Nothing who clearly was an entirely different character in every way possible! The Monster has allowed me to indulge my fascination with English folk law, to explore our connection to the natural world – something I’ve definitely been able to relate this character to – I imagine him standing with his roots firmly in the ground, a timeless, eternal Yew Tree. It’s clearly a massive challenge to play the Monster, at first I thought I needed to be similar to Liam Neeson in the film, but soon realised that wasn’t right – for the play or for me. The rehearsals take me on a journey of discovery about any character, and by the end, just before the first performance I’ve spent enough time with and as that character to know what they mean to me and what they’ll mean to the audience.
A Monster Calls promises to take the audience on a journey with each and every character, to realise that sometimes to protect ourselves from pain we lie to ourselves and live in denial. Tickets for the shows are still available from Ticketsource, we hope you get the opportunity to see these and all the other students and characters come to life in this School production.