Love Thy Monster: Shakespeare, Aggression, and Male Violence | Fringe World

With Perth’s Fringe World Festival hitting its second week, there are many incredible performances being previewed all over the city. This week I was fortunate enough to attend the opening night of Love Thy Monster

Love Thy Monster is presented by the award winning Worklight Theatre who are returning to Fringe World after the success of last years show, Labels.

“What happens when the red mist descends? Why do some people lash out violently and others take a breath and bottle it up? Is it more ‘masculine’ to let your anger out?

Blending multiple texts including Shakespeare’s Othello and interviews with boxer Mike Tyson and actor Patrick Stewart, this intimate solo show peels back the layers of masculinity to reveal the monster underneath us all. As the stories of both Tyson, a professionally violent persona, and Stewart, who stood between his mother and violent father, unfold against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s brutal depiction of violence against women, the narratives intertwine. The differences between victim, perpetrator, role model and narrator begin to blur, questioning the nature and source of male aggression.”

Love Thy Monster was quite different to how I thought it would go, though that was mostly because I had no idea what I was in for. Joe has an extremely commanding presence on stage, and for one man, he made it seem like it was filled with people. The way he was able to easily change voice and demeanour whenever he was portraying another character was phenomenal (though there were a couple slipups, but those can be forgiven as opening night hiccups). He portrayed about six characters (including himself), and each was distinctive from the others. Not just because he changed his voice (his Scottish accent was perfect), but because his entire body would shift just slightly and you could recognise who it was before he spoke. Tim was definitely a favourite of mine; his banter with Joe was great. His impersonations of Patrick Stewart and Mike Tyson were exceptionally accurate.

Initially the show was confusing, as I was unsure how exactly the stage was split in the different stories he was portraying; but as the show continued, it got better and all the pieces fell into place. I found it quite enlightening, when he was portraying interviews with Mike Tyson and Patrick Stewart, because I didn’t know about their experiences with violence (I only knew about Tyson’s boxing, not the rape charges). It was also interesting the way he made their stories so incredibly relevant to the struggles of his main character, who is conflicted by his violent urges, and doesn’t know what to do about them.

The Shakespearean play Othello plays a major role in the story, as Joe has been cast as Othello in a performance and it’s whilst studying and trying to become that character that he feels like everything around him is derailing. I will admit that some of Shakespeare quotes went over my head, I haven’t read Othello, but Joe would also occasionally speak too fast for me to try and decipher the meaning of what his character was talking about. However, at times his character would pause and explain parts of the Othello scene and what was being said, which made it easier to follow.

Love Thy Monster is the latest piece from award-winning writer and performer Joe Sellman-Leava; and is a follow up to his highly personal piece Labels, which had sold out shows at The Blue Room Theatre during last years Fringe World, and has toured four continents. Labels won The Scotsman’s First Award for Outstanding New Writing at Edinburgh Fringe. It will be returning to The Blue Room Theatre this year for two performances only, on January 28th and February 4th, tickets are available here.

Love Thy Monster is being performed at The Blue Room Theatre as part of their long running Summer Nights program.

Love Thy Monster is running from January 31st to February 4th, more details can be found on the Fringe World website.

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About Mikaela Zarifis

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I live my life amongst the pages of books, with my head in the clouds, and a cup of tea by my side. Recent graduate of Curtin’s Professional Writing and Publishing course. Instagram: @mikaelazarifis