FRINGEWORLD 2017 – Love Thy Monster (4.5 stars)

Review by Laura Money

First impressions of the stripped back stage, lone male figure dramatically reciting Shakespeare’s most misogynistic and violent lines in a heartfelt and impassioned soliloquy, are that this is going to be one of *those* shows. You know, the pretentious thespian parading life and death around as if he is the most poignant speaker in the room – the ‘Shakespeare voice’ that echoes through to the cheap seats at the back: a load of darkness that frankly makes you want to go out and have a stiff drink. Love Thy Monster is anything but that! After the uncomfortable soliloquy follows Joe Sellman-Leava acting as all of the characters in the audition process. He jumps between himself and all of the players to recount a particular time of his life.

This is such a unique work – on the surface it is a one-man show about a rough period of the actor’s life. He is successful in his audition, and in developing a role as a violent man, realises that the research into domestic violence especially starts tormenting him. Sellman-Leava has a happy sensibility, and his exuberance shines through as he reenacts the chance and romantic meeting of his girlfriend, which coincided with his budding development of the play. We see him trying to get his head into each zone as he must go from violent anger to tender love and affection.

Running throughout the play like a thin thread are testimonies from interviews with acclaimed actor Patrick Stewart, who witnessed the terrible domestic violence meted out by his father to his mother in his youth, and also Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, a man known for his incredible proclivity to violence and horrendous attitude towards women. Sellman-Leava is a flawless actor, at first when one hears Stewart’s voice coming from his mouth, it is jarring and even more disconcerting with Tyson, however Sellman-Leava gets every nuance and inflection right.

The premise is heartbreakingly simple, weaving the complexities of violence through what is, in essence a love story. Sellman-Leava finds himself incredibly confused as he struggles to get angry during the play when he is meant to, and struggles to remain calm with his girlfriend, when he is also meant to. With Stewart and Tyson’s words buzzing in his head and the pressure to be something he is not, Sellman-Leava entices you to see the world in a way that may be a little uncomfortable, but in the end we must all face our inner monster.


When: 31st January – 4th February 2017 | 8:00pm

Where: The Blue Room Theatre | Fringe Central | PERTH

Tickets: $19 – $26

Info: Duration 60 minutes | Suitable 18+ | Themes of domestic violence