Updated: May 12, 2022
The Theatre is my church. I go there for comfort, for laughter, for tears. This week I went to see A Monster Calls at the Rose Theatre Kingston– it’s a singular theatrical experience, it’s stage imaginative, simple and raw.
We journey with Conor, a 13 year old navigating the terminal illness of his single mother. He winds around his intuition, what he knows to be true but cannot, will not, accept.
Enter the Ewe Tree, aka Monster. Fearsome, horrific. It tells Conor three nuanced, subtle, complicated Human stories, and predicts that Conor will tell a 4th - his story – his TRUTH.
Conor, like anyone anticipating a great loss, fears that giving breath to what he knows will break him, will bring his deepest fears to life.
When Conor finally screams: “I WANT IT TO BE OVER!” He doesn’t die, he doesn’t break, instead he walks into his mother’s hospital room and lies with her, embracing her and the future without her. The Monster, who has seemed threatening, scary, has actually cared for him, loved him - in coaxing him to tell the truth.
It has carved space for Conor to turn towards his dying mother and relish what little time he has left.
Anyone who has had a loved one diagnosed with a fatal illness will be familiar with Conor’s predicament: the hope they will get better and the hope they will go quickly. We don’t admit the second half of that. Not aloud anyway. It feels too harsh, too unloving. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want the pain to be over: the pain of our loved one and our own pain, because it feels like being a fly caught in amber - we are stuck in that tension of hoping for two opposing outcomes, and the dissonance is deafening, the bass of it reverberating through our very cells.
And we crave sweet, sweet relief.
Sometimes sweet relief is in admitting what you already know at a cellular level: there is no coming back from this. It allows you to be fully present with yourself, with your life, your loved one and make those last months, weeks, days, moments meaningful.
A Monster Calls is a beautiful story about anticipatory grief, about love, about loss. It’s about turning toward your suffering, having your suffering seen, heard, and accepted.
And that’s what we want, right? To be seen. To be heard. To know that our loss, our suffering, our LOVE MATTERS.