Children say the funniest things, but the words they say sound even funnier when adults speak them; that is what Monkey Bars sets out to prove. Karl James was tasked with recording real conversations with schoolchildren in London for writer Chris Goode, who has turned them into a play delivered by grown ups. James asked 30 eight to ten-year-olds to tell him about their lives, their thoughts, and their world. In Monkey Bars, their words are spoken by adults. However, these are not adults playing children, but adults playing adults, in adult situations.
The characters talk about the government, the economy, the Olympics, celebrity culture, and religion. They chat about all these things in ‘grown up world’ contexts, such as in wine bars after work. We are transported into each scene through the use of illuminated white boxes that form seats and a bar and are moved around by the cast effectively.
As none of the dialogue delivered during the scenes is edited, the performers speak with grammatical errors, use the word 'like' repeatedly, and have an innocence about their person.This is an amazing social commentary that is both entertaining and at times deeply moving.
There is a wonderful moment where many of the conversations merge and are repeated over the top of each other in a culmination of all the emotions of each of the children. It is so affecting that, when some of the 'children' talk about their sadness, it chokes you.
I was given a copy of the script when I went to watch the performance and, after seeing the show, I read it through. The piece is beautifully written and provides great material for the stage. What is particularly pleasing is that it refers to its own creation and the audience are made aware right from the start of how the experiments were carried out and how they formed the basis of the script. It is a clever blurring of reality and storytelling.