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REVIEW: Monkey's Blood at Whitley Bay Laurels Theatre

Monkey's Blood

by Jamie Eastlake and John Hickman

Whitley Bay Laurels Theatre

Until Saturday 5th August 2023

A gritty and funny show which reflects the world we live in has found its way from a London opening, in 2019, to North Tyneside this week,

Micky is from a council estate in Hartlepool. Whilst his neighbours fall into crime and/or drugs, Micky tries to do the right thing by becoming a paper lad - with consequences when he meets his neighbours. He also likes puppets and puppetry - a fact he hides from his friends. He makes some puppets himself using what he has to hand - but he is lucky when a proper monkey puppet is bought as a present.

The tale then takes a sinister turn when he listens to a confident far-right speaker. The truth is that ignorance begets ignorance and Micky finds that the arguments being forcefully made seem to reflect the world that he lives in. After getting involved in the groups activities, and the local AmDram group, Micky finds himself on an acting course in London which eventually leads to a children's television role with his monkey puppet Colin.

As the audience take their seats, Emma Deborah Ward is operating Colin the Monkey as he is playing loud dance music and dancing around. This is no Rainbow character though. Colin is a foul mouthed puppet that is happy to embarrass Micky at any opportunity. This show includes bad language, sexual references and racism - similar to Avenue Q in that respect. But, and this is the key point - you are left thinking about the issues covered afterwards - and there are plenty of discussion points to be made.

This is a tight piece of storytelling, which is delivered in a passionate way, by Jamie Eastlake. Working closely with Ward, and her operation of Colin, he describes a story of a north east lad trying to make sense of his world and seizing any opportunity to make a change to his own outcomes. The pair (or trio if we include Colin) make the most of the limited space creating an intimate show experience. Ward, in addition to operating Colin, also fills in as the various other characters in the story from racist leaders, various AmDram types and Micky's girlfriend.

The show works because the pair are able to engage with the audience. It isn't just what is said but the non-verbal stuff, like facial expressions, too. Monkey's Blood shows that wonderful theatre can be created without a massive budget. The talented actors are more effective than flashy props.

The tale is an important one, in our society social media has sensitized debate. The media love to build people up and then knock them down. I remember reading the biography of a working class actor from Liverpool who found that his past, and brush with the far right in his search for answers, come back to haunt him when he became more famous.

In this, our third trip to Laurels, we are witnessing the arrival of a major force in the north east theatre scene. I just wished we lived nearer! Having said that - this is well worth the trip to the coast.

Cast & Creatives:

Emma Deborah Ward - Colin's operator & Micky's world

Jamie Eastlake - Micky Holmes

Movement director - Lucy Curry

Lighting design - Ryan Olive

Set design - Steve Robertson

Review: Stephen Oliver

On the web:


Tickets are available from  

Jowheretogo Podcast- The Northeast Culture Show :

Previews and reviews of live music, comedy, theatre & more in Northeast England. New music, old music and a bit of what we fancy! Find out what's on in Northeast England: With Jo ; Northeast Music Guide , and Steve : Northeast Theatre Guide

Available now on Spotify

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