Reflections of a Constant Monk, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Review

Submitted by Erin Roche on Fri, 17 Nov '17 4.17pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show details
The Elements World Theatre
Maria Macdonald (stage manager, lighting designer, technician)
Robin Mason (MD, composer, cellist), James Bryce (composer, keyboardist), Peter Galinsky (composer, clarinetist), Lee Gershuny (poet, performer)
Running time

A mixture of parables, poetry, and music, Reflections of a Constant Monk is, at best, abstract and imaginative and, at worst, aimlessly frenetic. Each audience member will likely undergo a unique experience.

This monk is the every man and woman of the world. On a timeless journey through life’s most basic truths and existential questions, he and she perpetually meets roadblocks that exist as parables exploring the struggle between humanity’s primality and enlightening transcendence.

Musical accompaniment comprised of keyboard, cello, and clarinet presents itself as a symphonic poem supporting the main tale, although each appears to seldom fully complement the other. Theming produced by a few musical phrases do add to the overarching story, but the sheer amount of dissonance and non-resolution throughout is confusing and irksome (but then again, perhaps that is purposeful as even Lee Gershuny herself calls it “unholy music”).

The parables, combined with music, reach a point of abstract that the main messages of the monk/s are lost. The messages are there, but it feels a bit like reading a story with parts removed at random.

A few points that salvaged the evening for this reviewer was the musical accompaniment behind the monk’s sexual exploration, the swelling of strings and brass combined with the arpeggiating of the piano creates a strong image. Similarly, as musicians and poet segue from monk to monkey, the metaphor, while wacky, is evident: the human experience often hangs between primal urges/ playful curiosity and a mystical/mindful evolution of the soul. The smattering of chuckles and the cyclical nature of the poetry/storytelling through ending the piece with the beginning stanza are both welcome additions.

Reflections of a Constant Monk is, in Lee Gershuny’s words, “experimental, to say the least.” Despite this piece’s bewilderment, there is more to be seen from The Elements World Theatre. The culmination of the November 2017 tour took place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, but Reflections of a Constant Monk, with its cast aged between 50 and 70, premiered at Summerhall as part of the Luminate Festival 2016 (Scotland’s creative ageing organisation).

“EWT is dedicated to presenting thought provoking, intimate and moving theatre that is sometimes controversial and always as beautiful to see as it is meaningful to experience.”
“The Elements World Theatre is an experience as much as a show, though performed with great skill. It’s challenging conventional ideas of theatre and opening up stories and big ideas.” Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre.”