MONUMENT – Theatre Review

A walking tour with more to see than just the sights.

Presented by David Rosenberg and Ben & Max Ringham.

Where and when: London (various outdoor locations) until 30 September

RATING: 4/5 stars ****

People all around the world dream of coming to London. I mean, it’s London – Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Oxford Circus… there’s so many iconic places to go and things to see.

This is where the aptly titled Monument kicks in. Described as a walking tour, there are many layers of what you ‘see’ during the show. I’m always a fan of going to a show where I have no idea what is going to happen. And I mean that quite literally – upon booking for Monument, you are told that you won’t know the location of the performance until the day of. The show runs off the Wiretapper app, so you arrive at your location, pop on your headphones, and away you go. The show begins even before it really begins – I couldn’t help but look around and find the other headphoned participants waiting for the show to kick off at our designated time and place. And then my mind started playing games with me… which of these people were in my world, and which were simply civilians listening to music? It’s true what they say, theatre is all around us – all you have to do is look for it.

When the recording did kick off, it was pretty damn thrilling. Following a set of instructions to make my way to a local landmark, it felt a lot like being on an episode of The Amazing Race, complete with a pounding soundtrack and a countdown every time a minute had passed. These active moments – where I was as much a performer as a spectator – were perhaps my favourites.

When we did arrive at our first location, where most of the action played out, we – the secret audience in a very public, very busy place in London – were much more aware of each other. Street theatre met undercover spy thriller as we were introduced to a number of ‘characters,’ often distinguished by their clothing. I couldn’t help but be curious about how much these characters would’ve stood out if I wasn’t there as part of the performance – in a big busy city like London, what someone else is wearing is really the least of your concerns when you’re getting from point A to B. And yet, here we were, able to focus in on just a few select people in a city of millions.

To be honest, I wasn’t so much concerned with the stories I was being told about these characters as I was to their interactions with the world around them. I came to realise that this was very much a performance about staging: the way we are made to see things, by our loved ones, by complete strangers, the media, politicians… How much of what I see and think comes honestly from within myself, and how much is conditioned by the world I live in? I know that the answer to that places the vast majority within the latter option, and if I really think about that, it’s quite a depressing reality.

But of course, it’s unavoidable that we are influenced by the society we grow up in – from our family circle to the laws that we are made to abide by. Perhaps though, Monument reminds us – at least for 50 minutes – to just use our own eyes in how we see the world. There are a million and one possibilities as to where the European woman dragging the suitcase behind her is going, or why that man is dressed so casually in a bright green tracksuit smack-bang in the middle of a tourist destination. For a short time, I’m encouraged to drop my judgments and preconceptions and entertain a number of constantly-changing possibilities about the people around me. Considering the current climate regarding migrants in Britain, this a timely piece which, for me, not only encourages me to see my city differently, but the people within it that contribute to its status.

The soundtrack by Ben and Max Ringham impeccably creates a thrilling sense of urgency, and the many performers that break out of their secrecy have done a top job in rehearsing the piece to timed perfection. I would’ve liked more moments of movement from location to location, and would’ve been happy for to continue the tour for an additional 30 minutes to accommodate this. However, the show packs a lot into its 50 minutes, and even more in the time spent thinking about what I’d witnessed afterwards. It’s a clever little piece that I can see being taken all over the world, and ‘staged’ to suit the mood, current events and surroundings of the city it inhabits.