‘Junk Monkey’ Is A Hidden Gem About Infatuation And Bad Decisions: Review

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junk monkey
Image credit: Seemingly Wholesome Productions

★★★★★

Olivia Mcleod’s one-woman show Junk Monkey follows Olivia, who is on the train home when she stumbles—almost literally—into the most beautiful woman she has ever seen. After a brief conversation, she learns that the woman is called May and she studies at a university nearby. Convinced that she has met her future wife, she returns home on a mission to impress May. There’s just one problem: Olivia’s boyfriend Tom keeps phoning her…

The characterisation in the production is remarkable, and Mcleod’s vivid descriptions bring each character alive. It’s easy to imagine her loving boyfriend Tom, who also happens to be an insect enthusiast, and her eccentric housemate Quentin, with his happy-go-lucky attitude and love for the arts. Mcleod keeps us entertained with jokes, where she pokes fun at both herself and the characters in the play. She does stumble over a couple of lines, but this has little effect on the performance, and each joke lands well with the audience.

Flashback sequences are sprinkled through Mcleod’s story, where we receive glimpses into her adolescence. We learn about her obsession with Effy and Cassie from Skins, and her first ever crush at the age of ten. When she was younger, she believes that everyone is in love with her, and she goes to drastic measures for attention, such as putting food between her teeth so that her best friend’s boyfriend notices her, and memorising a whole band’s discography to impress a girl in her philosophy class. These flashbacks are complimented by lighting changes, and are very well done. They don’t disturb the flow of the narrative at all.

At first, younger Olivia’s arrogance and self-confidence is almost at odds with her adult self, who repeatedly hints that May is way out of her league. However, we soon see similar themes appear in her present-day life. What appears at first to be an innocuous crush is later revealed to be something more serious, and the façade she has built up drops as she goes on a self-destructive rampage, taking drugs and begging for attention from men at the party. The character development, which occurs after a conversation with Quentin forces her to consider why she is acting as she is, is great to see, and the play ends on a satisfying, yet funny and perfectly fitting manner.

Mcleod is a skilled storyteller, and she does an excellent job of portraying what it’s like to have a crush. She takes us on an emotional whirlwind, where one minute we can relate to her antics, and the next we are willing her to see the error of her ways. A must-see show, Junk Monkey is a hidden gem at this year’s Fringe.

Junk Monkey will be performed at Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose – Coorie from 23-27 August at 5pm as part of Edinburgh Fringe.

Words by Ellen Leslie


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