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Monkey Bars

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Putting the words of children into the mouths of adults is an intriguing twist on the verbatim theatre format.

In Chris Goode's lucid production, which arrives in London boasting a clutch of raves from the Edinburgh Fringe, it works to both comic and poignant effect.

The children discuss issues from the trivial (jelly, superheroes) to the devastating (divorce, death), with a consistent vernacular; the word "like" predictably peppers almost every sentence.

The six-strong cast (Philip Bosworth, Angela Clerkin, Jacquetta May, Christian Roe, Gwyneth Strong and Gordon Warnecke) bring individual flair without ever overwhelming the material. They know as we do that the real stars of this show are the children they're voicing.

As the adults enact everyday scenarios - first dates, work drinks - using recorded words (the piece is based on interviews with over 70 children conducted by Karl James), the juxtaposition allows us to appreciate the contrast between the plain honesty of youth and the elaborate games we play as adults.

The occasional wink above the children's heads is forgivable for the fact that Goode has put their words centre stage with the dignity they deserve. And when so few playwrights are willing to engage with a discussion of contemporary Islam, Monkey Bars cuts straight to the chase with admirable frankness.

All told it's an absorbing and illuminating insight into the minds of the younger generation delivered with genuine heart. What's, like, not to like?


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