Connor Allen’s autobiographical grime-theatre mash-up blew us away and impressed a teenager who is pretty hard to please at the moment.
“I like it when it’s real. It felt really true. It’s how school actually is.” – 14-year-old
The universe aligned with unexpected shifts in our usual Thursday evening schedule to free my older boy and me to head to Wales Millennium Centre to see The Making of a Monster.
Performed and created by the Children’s Poet Laureate Wales Connor Allen with David Bonnick Jr and Oraine Johnson, this Wales Millennium Centre production explores Connor’s experience growing up mixed race, and mixed up in trouble in Newport through grime, rap and a bit of audience interaction.
My son nearly cringed up his own sphincter when he thought he’d be called on to talk but these moments of direct communication and play with the audience were handled really well. It set the tone for the piece as a conversation. It’s a story from the 00s but it’s about now too, about race, about a man becoming a boy, and I’ll let you find out for yourself what Roget’s Thesaurus has to do with all that.
We agreed that the set was great. A giant half pipe with a towering circular screen dominated the stage, the live drummer and incredible projections keeping us glued to the visuals throughout. I always wonder how tourable a set is and this screamed NOT AT ALL but it’s such an integral part of this show. It spoke of place, youth, energy and with skilled lighting and projection playing a key role, took us all over Newport and into Connor’s mind.
“I really liked that scene with his Dad. Looked like a 3D TV screen.” – 14-year-old
A major theme of the show is absent fathers. This prompted my son afterwards to talk about his very present Dad who grew up without a father-son relationship. Watching a show with Connor’s honesty laying bare his confusion, anger and hurt as a teenage boy made my own teenage boy think about his Dad’s school days in a different way. He’s at that age where my husband’s teaching him to shave, helping him train at the gym, all of that, and The Making of a Monster gut punched him, knowing his Dad grew up in the same town as a father who lived with his other kids and didn’t engage with him at all, but with a Mum who gave him everything.
If you’ve got a teen, or you just remember being a teen, you know these kind of conversations (or any kind of chat beyond a grunt) are rare and precious. That a live performance can make young people reflect on their own lives, experiences and identities is powerful and this show does just that.
With open captions and creative captions integrated into the design, it was another excellent example of the Centre considering accessibility in their Weston Studio productions.
If your teen is studying Drama, they need to get out and see all sorts of work. If your teen isn’t into Drama or Theatre, this show is packed with characters, issues, themes and music that makes all that not matter, it’s like a gig about identity, it’s full of power and truth and part of that is a lot of F bombs.
The Making of a Monster comes with a Parental Advisory of Explicit Content, there’s swearing, rap battling lyrics with sexual references, references to domestic violence and racism. But as a mum, I’d rather my older kids engage with this work to better understand the world and the people in it, to have difficult conversations, than live in a frothy bubble.
Go and see it. It’s at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff until 19th November so no excuses. I paid just £15 for my ticket and under 26s are only £10. Get there early for pre-show performances from emerging South Wales music talent from 6.30pm and to try out the free augmented reality experience The Museum of Nothingness. Check the Centre’s website for opening dates and times but there’s no need to book for the AR.
Book your tickets here: https://www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2022/the-making-of-a-monster
(Not invited to review, I bought our tickets and wrote this up because I think more people should see it.)