Set in 1960s East London, this student production from Queen Mary Theatre Company is about the Annual Ball Night at the eponymous Monkhouse school. Six students, who are expecting a night of fun and casual banter, are thrown into uncertainty and turmoil as an unknown shooter fires two shots in the dark. What follows is drama, dialogue, and dance that slowly brings to light everything that is wrong with this ball, the school, and its pupils.
The blurb promises a thrilling show, showing older schoolkids as they try to grapple with their surroundings in a tense environment. In reality though, the show is let down by both script and production values, as well as some issues with the acting. There were too many flaws. The music in the background was, at times, too loud to hear the dialogues properly. The narrative wasn’t tight-knit – meaning that the transition between one conversation and another felt stilted. When there are six actors on stage at the same time, it is especially crucial that the different threads of the storyline are made easy to follow, which was not the case here.
I also felt that there was huge potential missed in the portrayal of the trying circumstances of some of the children. “1960s”, “East London” and “teenagers” could well have made for a heady mix of dialogues, bringing out the incongruence of the young adult characters with their surrounding culture. But this, even if considered as part of the story, did not come through at all. Neither the whodunit nor the subplots left a mark.
Some elements did work well. Spread out over a large stage, the six actors make good use of the space. And even though the audience is seated over three different areas, the cast does a good job of managing their movements so that all sides get a good view of the action.
The script has potential – what’s not to like about a “one room fast-paced whodunit thriller”? With a bit more development on the acting side and some added finesse to the writing, this show could improve upon its present form.