WITH a twitch of his nose he can make himself small enough to creep inside an ear; the twirl of his magic staff and he can become tall as a mountain, and he can summon up a cloud to fly around on.
Yes, it’s Monkey, that mischievous simian from Wu Cheng’en’s 16th century novel “Journey to the West”, and Canberra playwright Jim McGrath is as fascinated by him as any 7-year-old. No wonder, as the song from the cult Japanese TV series goes, he’s “the punkiest monkey that ever popped”.
And it’s a great story… Monkey is imprisoned under a mountain for flouting the bureaucratic rules of Heaven before being released by the young monk Tripitaka on the condition he travel with him to return the sacred Buddhist scripts from India. They’re joined by two other “monsters”, the over-philosophical Sandy and the gluttonous, lascivious Pigsy.
Back in 2015, Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image brought its stage adaptation of the show to the Canberra Theatre with kids in mind and now The Street Theatre too is getting into Monkey Magic.
McGrath’s last play was a musical adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s story, “Heart of a Dog”, seen at The Street in full production during 2013, and now’s he’s come up with what The Street calls “a darkly comic sequel to the legendary Chinese story”, in which, right in the Buddhist tradition, he aims to help find balance in a world that feels “out of whack”.
McGrath will be delivering a public showing of his new work this Friday. It’s the culmination of a creative development workshop to refine the draft script, with the support of artsACT, in anticipation of a full production.
Audience members will be invited to provide feedback and ask questions at the end of the performance.
“Monkey Madness” in progress, Street 3, Street Theatre, 6.30pm, Friday, April 13. Bookings to the street.org.au or 6247 1223.