REVIEW: The King of Taking (Q Theatre)

Review by Ben Shand-Clennell

Thom Monckton’s The King of Taking is a physicality-based solo performance, wherein the petulant, titular King tries, and fails, to navigate his kingdom and his subjects – to hilarious result.

The lights go up to Gemma Tweedie’s sparse and luxurious set, with the richly-coloured fabric banners and tent doing an amazing job of delineating the performance area. Of immediate note, when the play opens, is the Chekhov’s Gun of three pulleys. Inside the tent is an elaborately-upholstered throne. 

The throne more resembles a high chair, which allows Thom Monckton’s King to loom over us, after he makes his fanfared, regal entrance. Monckton is dressed in a pyjama onesie, ruff, and cloth crown – evoking images of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are or the quintessential Lord of Misrule. The King is fussy and sulky, typified by his wanton killing of his subjects offstage – at slightest inconvenience – and his inability to step on the ground without a red carpet. This is played to perfection by Monckton, who uses many impressive acrobatic feats, body contortions, and tableaux poses, to show the imbecilic nature of the King, and the lengths he would go to in order to stay away from the carpetless-ground.

The physicality is where this show truly sings. Monckton’s use of mime to show the King’s increasingly grandiose requests, and the vaudevillian way in which Monckton tosses his body around, are among the most impressive and well-utilised miming in recent memory. 

They say ‘repetition legitimises’, and this is certainly the case in The King of Taking. Monckton repeats many aspects – from the macro to the micro – and effectively builds/changes them to great storytelling effect. The repetition of various aides’ names, the fanfares, and the huge mimed sequences – all subtly different each time (reminiscent of the plan-making in Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead) – are very comedic and effective storytelling tools. The King  often comes across like a child embellishing a story or calling for other tales when bored.

This child-like characterisation of the King is possibly best exemplified by the presents. Before the show, and in the publicity, the audience are invited to bring along a wrapped present for the King. Or, bring an object, and have it wrapped onsite. These are then deposited onstage by a loyal subject, for the King to peruse at leisure. This opens the piece up to stellar improvisation.

Throughout the play, Monckton calls on the audience to summon his subjects, or admonish them for deriving pleasure from his sadness. Later, while unwrapping the presents, Monckton singles out audience members who he thinks might have dared give him such a lousy gift. One reviewer even had a ball on a string thrown at him! 

One aspect of the presents was that, at times, it was difficult for the audience to see what the current present was – and there were some truly strange offerings. However, the Company got around this with a discrete camera and projector. It would have been nice to see the camera and projector used in other interesting ways as well, as Monckton uses a plethora of other objects in such inventive ways throughout the play.

The King of Taking is incredible, with the audience in sustained laughter throughout. We were also left with a bit to think about, with a somewhat surprising ending leaving us contemplating wider themes of materiality and the oft-hidden, negative results of excess.

The King of Taking plays at Rangatira, Q Theatre, from 11-12th November, 2022.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.