Mr Monkey sees Powder Monkey at the Royal Exchange Studio, 2nd June
After seeing the War Correspondent exhibition at IWM North, Mr Monkey scurried along to the Royal Exchange for the press matinee of Amanda Dalton's Powder Monkey at the Royal Exchange Studio.
Coming to the Studio for a second run, Powder Monkey is a powerful drama for young people and their families which takes place on a scrap of abandoned land beside some woods. This territory is a haven for Stella, who has problems with her alcoholic mother and fears for her brother, a soldier somewhere overseas. The only person Stella allows on to her land is Worm, her neighbour; Worm too has problems with the adults in his family. The two children's volatile relationship is disturbed by the disappearance of Stella's property and the appearance of AK, a refugee child-soldier from Africa.
The set is atmospheric but stark; a single ambigious tree-like thing in the centre (there is some discussion at the House of the Orange Monkey as to whether it was a real tree or a shattered reinforced-concrete pillar that looks like a tree), and a high, but broken, security fence to one side. Sound and lighting, too, was effective, though the use of strobe lighting a couple of times did startle Mr Monkey.
There are only three in the cast : Susan Wokoma plays AK, Karla Crome is Stella and Worm (or Powder Monkey as he prefers to be known) is played by Sam Swann. All three are excellent, though they are obviously older than the 12 year olds they are playing.
While the play deals with serious subjects - all three children are affected, in different ways, by warfare past and present - it does have lighter moments, particularly in Worm's reactions to the world. There are moments of sadness but there are also heart-warming scenes and more than once Mr Monkey needed to borrow a tissue.