Thom Monckton: The Artist & The King of Taking – Q Theatre: Review

Thom Monckton performs two delightful acrobatic comedy clown shows at Auckland’s Q Theatre, which are masterclasses in the art of minimalist comedy theatre.

Monckton comes from Patea in South Taranaki. He trained as a performance artist at CircoArts in Christchurch before completing his journey at the Physical Theatre School Lecoq in Paris.

His solo clown performance piece The Pianist received critical and popular success across Europe, with an award for Best Circus Show at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A similar reception with Only Bones in 2016, which toured successfully here after debuting in Finland.

The Artist

We are greeted by a painter’s studio on stage with the artist beavering away in front of a large canvas, prior to the start. He finishes it and turns it around to show us a visual illusion. A painting of the canvas and easel.

From there it takes off, the mundane turning into magical realism and fantasy. It is very funny too.

He has a bowl of fruit as his art subject. Instead, bananas, apples and pears are turned into characters attending a dance rave.

Uses a Mister Bean voice to connect back to the inner child and the endless wonder of the world around him.

Physical acrobatic skills around his stage studio leave you gasping at times. Can he pull it off? Balancing on an upside-down ladder and he looks both natural and totally reckless.

Reminds me of the great silent comedians of the early twentieth century. Charlie Chaplin of course, but also the extreme physical comedy of Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon or Buster Keaton. Real time acrobatic stunts with perfect timing.

Sadly, you will only see these now occasionally at film festivals, as archival pieces. Go to YouTube.

An expressive rubbery face matched with long gangling limbs puts him in lineage with Jim Carrey and Jerry Lewis before him. (You f*%#ed my mother was how Carrey greeted Lewis on first meeting).

An audience member is picked to come up on stage and finish the Artist’s portrait. He fits in so seamlessly that you wonder if it was pre-planned. More likely not.

Builds to an appropriate grand finale of an art exhibition.

The King of Taking

This new production has more of a narrative behind it, and the clowning has a darker undercurrent. Shades of Captain Spaulding from the great Rob Zombie movie Devil’s Rejects. Don’t you like clowns, boy? Don’t we make you laugh!

The King is a man-child. Spoilt and petulant, he can only stand and walk on the red carpet. Off this and he’s on the floor. Legs bend and wobble. It is a chaotic dance routine which incorporates Michael Jackson dance moves including a moon walk.

Unseen are his attendants and courtiers. There is his personal valet, Jonathan. He who can’t be summoned. An extended set-piece where the audience are easily dragged into complicity.

He has his own band who provide fanfare for his world. A bit like Phil Spector in his idiosyncrasy. When he can’t get the cymbal Kriiiisssssssh that he wants, the drummer is shot by a bowman. More follow.

The mime sequences of the instructions for disposing of the bodies are hilarious. The more they pile up, the more manic he becomes.

He’s obsessed with his presents. A complete narcissist never having to face consequences.

Broadly funny which saves it from being satire that is too savage. But recognisable in recent world leaders.

There is precedent in the silent movie greats again. Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. The most recent cinema take on this has Sacha Baron Cohen. Another extreme physical comedy artist.

Jonathan may even materialise on stage. Or we may be caught in the spell that Monckton can cast. You will have to come and see for yourselves.

Despite his personality, you get to like this King a lot. Because he is such a clown!

Rev Orange Peel

Photos Supplied