The “Monkey” journey to the West – a stroke of Kim Carpenter’s creative genius

 

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I’ve been an avid theatre goer and actor for over twenty years and have been waiting for a play that not only embraces diversity but is action packed with family entertainment. This play fits the bill. You have to admire and respect Kim Carpenter’s creative genius, his vision – the outstanding set design, staging, acrobatics, puppetry and the use of animation and visuals on the screen as a backdrop, is brilliant.

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Kim Carpenter tells us in his program message:

Together with writer, Donna Abela, I dived into the pages of (the book) and our eyes widened at the amazing number of rich and extraordinary stories MONKEY had to offer. Inspired by the vivid beauty, mad-cap humour, mythology and exciting battles we found throughout the readings, we extracted the best stories into one, complete, fantastical action-packed stage adventure that will appeal to all – no matter what age or background.

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Monkey is played by Aljin Abella who appeared in US television series Power Rangers – Jungle Fury shows great performance athleticism. Aileen Huynh plays boy-monk Tripitaka (played by the late female actress Masako Natsume in the television series) has great stage presence and is strong and convincing. Darren Gilshenan is the over-eating buffoon Pigsy who has great comic timing and is an acting genius, while Sandy, a depressed water spirit, is played by Justin Smith.

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In the first act it focuses on the four essential characters and how they become a unit on a mission. The second act follows their adventures together and is most entertaining. One of my favourite scenes in the play is when Ivy Mak and Lia Reutens played the spangly black leotarded Spider Spirits which is hilarious and is choreographed to perfection – the crowd particularly laughed loudly in this scene. Another crowd pleasing scene was when Monkey asked the crowd “should I kill him?” The crowd yelled “yes!”

 

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A lot of thought went into this production and it has definitely an Aussie take. Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Theatre goers have something to look forward to in 2015. A must see! Well done to John Bell, Kim Carpenter and all the cast and crew.

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