If you’re looking for an Ed Mirvish happy fun musical theatre evening, The Monument is not for you. This is going to be a dark evening. A soldier who has raped and killed 25 girls/women in the bedlam of war is given a choice: face execution or become a slave to a woman for the rest of his life.
You know you’re in for a journey the minute you walk in. The excellent stage design has you looking at ominous dangling ropes over a dust covered stage circling a lone chair on a platform. Then, as the performance progresses, the staging turns from wasteland-brown to blood-red culminating in a gut-wrenching scene involving a pioneering use of wardrobe which I won’t spoil. This is all supported by outstanding soundscaping.
The award-winning play has been reworked, shifting it from a war far off someplace, to a war on our doorstep (though we’re still not quite sure where) and the 25 girls/women are now indigenous. So it feels closer to home, particularly in light of recent court cases – but this only partially works. While indigenous culture is technically and metaphorically at war, it’s not the soldier-gangs-roaming-the-streets type of war. However, you don’t have much spare time to ponder this as both the soldier and the audience re-live his crimes, which is tough going. Several audience members burst into tears and counsellors were available in the lobby for anyone who needed them.
Both actors (Augusto Bitter and Tamara Podemski) do a competent (sometime shining) job with their materiel, but it is a tough ask of the audience to feel too much for them, particularly the soldier who we are asked to empathize with on several occasions. Couldn’t do it. Nevertheless, as the 25 girls/women become more and more real, the audience can’t help but react.
Expect to be taken on a journey, not often pleasant, but worth the trip. Once.
March 15th – April 1
Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St., Toronto