World premiere of Monstrous Heart bursts boldy on to Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre studio stage

Like the acid-spitting vicious creature bursts from the chest of John Hurt in the sci-fi movie  Alien, so the Monstrous Heart hits the stage of the McCarthy.

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 08:05 am
Charlene Boyd in Oliver Samuel's new play

The psychological thriller is bold, tense, shocking and brutal and as it is in the McCarthy studio space of the Stephen Joseph Theatre there is no place to hide.

To give away more than the minimum of plot is to spoil the experience.

Let’s say Oliver Emanuel’s two-hander it is about a mum and daughter reunited after years apart in a log cabin in the wilds of British Columbia.

Little House on the Prairie it is not. Instead of apple pie on the table to welcome the prodigal daughter there is a dead grizzly bear.

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Mum is a taxidermist but it is the daughter who wants to stuff up life as her Ma knows it.

As a snow storm brews outside, inside the cabin, as the audience are made aware of the instruments of taxidermy that can do more harm than good – and a shot gun in the cupboard – a maelstrom of emotions whirl as the stakes are cranked up even higher.

Director Gareth Nicholls ensures the play hits the ground running. After the two women stare each other out for a few seconds, battle commences and continues to an inevitable bloody end.

Daughter Beth comes at her mother like a rattle snake, shaking is tail, rearing its head, bearing its fangs and hissing itself into a poisonous strike.

Mum Mag is like the mesmerised victim trying to fend off the snake with a lollipop stick.

Tables turn though and they turn and turn again and again as the two women go at it like prize-fighters –leaving the audience punch drunk.

The two actresses Charlene Boyd as Beth and Christine Entwisle as Mag are brilliant. They command the stage and attention.

They never let up the tension during the 1oo minutes of brutal exchange.

Boyd plays Beth as the damaged, the world-owes-me violent type and Entwisle is the embodiment of the also damaged but wiser life’s victim.

Of course,this is more than a play about two women having a row.

It is about reinvention, recrimination, redemption, nature and nurture, forgiveness and forgetfulness and fickle fate.

Its writer Oliver Emanuel is an award winner who has written for most of the major theatre companies in Scotland.

The Monstrous Heart is a co-production between Edinburgh-based Traverse Theatre Company and will transfer there after its Scarborough run.

Scarborough audiences are fortunate that the McCarthy Space exists.

It allows the Stephen Joseph to put on mainstream new productions by Alan Ayckbourn, receive touring productions from first-rate companies like Northern Broadsides and the John

Godber Company and stage revivals of award-winners like Stepping Out and the Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

The McCarthy gives vent to new writing – sometimes angry,sometimes frightening and, almost always, challenging.

Last year it helped launch Scarborough playwright Christopher York’s Build a Rocket into the success stratosphere.

This time it’s the turn of the Monstrous Heart – powerful, yes, challenging, yes, uncomfortable, yes, and worth investing time in.

It runs at the McCarthy from now until Saturday, October 19, daily at 7.45pm. It then transfers to Edinburgh.

Tickets: Tickets from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com