We are the monsters
von Colette Sadler
Age 5 and over / Preschool / Year 1 and above
A tower of tracksuit tops with legs, a golden creature with a button and a running fleece: meet the Monster Family! Out from their hiding place in a cardboard wall burst a cagey group of remarkable creatures. The bizarre objects that they wear as costumes make it difficult to tell which way is up or down, and where the legs and head are supposed to be. But gradually they start to show us who they really are.
The Monster Family shapes their world according to their own rules, while the costume of each individual monster and the way it moves reveals a lot about the character within it. They duplicate and multiply, causing utter chaos, before sorting themselves out again and being carried around upside down and inside out.
‘We are the monsters’ features plenty of absurd eccentricity, but ultimately it emphasises the appeal of being different, and celebrates diversity.
Choreography and concept: Colette Sadler
Dance: Maxwell McCarthy, Assaf Hochman, Leah Marojevic, Naama Ityel
Staging, costumes, lighting: Philine Rinnert
Music: Brendan Dougherty
Lighting technology: Colin Bell
A co-production with tanzhaus nrw / “New steps” take off junger Tanz and TWR Glasgow, with funding from Creative Scotland, Tramway family day 2012, Bournemouth Pavilion and Tanznacht Berlin 2012.
“For the children, the piece was an adventure. They lapped it up and got emotionally involved. It was thrilling to see each of them get so immersed in it, in their own individual way, from riveted and captivated to joyfully curious or on the edge of their seats with anticipation. The whole range of emotions was there! I liked the alternation between up-tempo and gentler scenes, the great accompanying music and lighting, the fantastic scenery and amazing costumes … The many opportunities to laugh, get the creeps, be awestruck, duck down … The contact with the monsters during and at the end of the piece … It was an all-round success!” (Benjamin Olzem, Teacher)
In ‘We Are The Monsters’, Colette Sadler assembles a family of strange beings who elicit sympathy on the part of the audience, whether young or old.
The incredible atmosphere in the audience made me wish that in future I could always watch performances with an audience of under-tens. Where else in contemporary dance do you experience that level of unbridled engagement with what’s happening on the stage – complete with gales of laughter, genuine bafflement and uproarious approval?
It makes it all seem so easy. I’m at the Sophiensaele, in the Hochzeitssaal, just after 10 am, gazing at a collection of cardboard boxes that forms the rear line of scenery at the back of the stage. This manoeuvrable, precarious backdrop seems to be constantly on the verge of collapsing. This impression is only compounded when individual elements are catapaulted forwards or turn themselves inside out. A number of monster-like creatures emerge from this world.. Before they appear, the stage design takes on a life of its own. “…plllllopppp” – a piece of cardboard is fired out through the air. Cue a roar of laughter from the stands. Strange tubes sprout from the openings of two outsize cardboard boxes and start sniffing at each other. Balloons squeak and shoot across the stage in high arcs. The piece has barely begun, and the audience is already freaking out. It’s all go on the stage now. The boxes have properly come to life, beginning to turn on their own axis as though spun by a puppeteer’s hand, until they have grown arms and legs on all sides. The crowd goes wild.
This is the opening to ‘We Are The Monsters’ – a children’s dance theatre piece by Glasgow-based choreographer Colette Sadler, staged as part of Tanzkomplizen, an initiative producing contemporary dance for young and very young audiences. It goes without saying that nothing is quickly or easily resolved here, even though (or perhaps precisely because) there’s so much going on. ‘We Are The Monsters’ uses simple means to appeal to our imagination and our innate enthusiasm for the extraordinary and the strange (in us). That’s why it works just as well for grown-up kids.
The monsters appear
A motley band of creatures take turns on the stage. While some of them shuffle across the space shyly or apparently lost in thought, others visibly enjoy the chance to perform and start vying for the audience’s attention. The boldest of them are constantly looking for ways to get close to the audience, roaming beyond the front rows or even venturing into the stands, where they invariably cause uproar. There are monsters whose limbs hang down at their sides like giant sausages, completely headless creatures made up of just two legs and a torso, creatures with two bottoms and a curved midsection clad in tracksuit trousers, an enormous monster with shaggy fur, a stacked-up red monster with several heads and arms – and that’s just a few of them. The lack of any didactic dimension to all this means that the play relies mainly on the way in which we identify with these beings, start to empathise with their otherness and come to love them. Ultimately, they come across as personalities that need neither a face nor a voice for us to understand them. In this monster society, everyone can be cranky, obstinate or, yes, monstrous in their own way.
At the end of the play, the individual characters are presented once again. Colette Sadler asks which of the monsters the children liked the most. The red monster, Jessica, is clearly the star of the show. “Because it broke everything” came the cry from the stands in the Hochzeitsaal, eliciting a murmur of approval from the rest of the room. Here, individual monsters don’t get shunned due to their appearance, but delight the onlookers with their strange behaviour, like Jessica sweeping hurriedly across the stage and knocking over all the cardboard boxes. Here’s to chaos and being different!