Read more about the Olivier award-winning stage production of A Monster Calls before the countrywide tour arrives in Aberdeen.
Sometimes a story feels like it belongs to one person who lets us in on it.
But sometimes, a story is a shared thing – passed on, transformed, evolving, always growing and finding new shoots, new roots.
So it’s proved with A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness’s young adult book, based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, was published in 2011 with illustrations by Jim Kay. Ness won the prestigious Carnegie medal, and Kay won the Greenaway award.
It was made into a movie starring Liam Neeson in 2017 and then adapted for the stage by Sally Cookson at the Old Vic in London in 2018.
Now, that production has been revived for a country-wide tour, with an all-new cast.
Watch the trailer for the stage version of A Monster Calls here:
A Monster Calls is about Conor, a 13-year-old boy who knows his mother is seriously ill and whose fear grows when no one will really talk to him about it. Then late one night, a monster pays him a visit: the enormous, ancient yew tree in his garden comes ferociously to life, and begins to tell Conor a series of fables that ultimately help him face the truth of his situation.
As a meditation on our fear of loss, our inability to discuss death and the power of storytelling to help us make sense of the world, Ness’s book struck an almighty chord.
It became a favourite with readers far beyond the young adult bracket, and the play received an Olivier Award and rave reviews when it burst vividly onto the stage.
Sally Cookson had quite the personal journey with the book herself.
“I instantly knew that I wanted to turn it into a piece of theatre,” she says.
“It packs such an emotional punch. It’s a story that celebrates stories, but it also gets under the skin of what we do as a society when it comes to talking about important stuff – which is close up.
“And it’s also such a beautiful, fantastical, magical story as well, it’s got all the elements I love.”
“I like a book that’s got a hundred challenges.
“I think you can put anything onstage if you’ve got an imaginative team around you – and that’s what audiences go to the theatre to do, to engage their imaginations.”
The material has proved powerfully intense on stage; the show is a tearjerker, but it’s never sentimental.
“I think it was cathartic for the audience, watching this story all together,” says Sally.
And she noticed something she’s never seen in her career before: audiences would stay in their seats after the show finished, sitting with it, talking about it.
“We realised that the audience didn’t want to leave the auditorium straight after, and so we kept the house open.” says Sally.
“And we’ll do that on tour as well, so people can just collect their thoughts or discuss it with the people they’ve come with, or with people they don’t know.
“That happened every night of the run – and it was a very special thing.”
Buy tickets online
A Monster Calls will appear at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen from Tuesday 17 March to Saturday 21 March.
Find out more and book tickets online from Aberdeen Performing Arts.