Pros: Giselle LeBleu Gant’s performance and Lydia Benecke’s sound effects.
Cons: Loses momentum as the show moves forward.
Giselle loves Ghost, the 1990 American blockbuster starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. She watches it on Saturday night, again on Sunday, and by Tuesday she knows most of the lines by heart. During an hilarious recap of the film’s plot, she explains to us how the whole concept of ghosts of justice and Whoopi Goldberg’s performance simply fascinates her.
Then there’s a phone call. Giselle’s mother, now living and enjoying the good life in Brazil, wants to sell their apartment in Harlem. That’s not good news for Giselle, who without a full-time job or savings would soon find herself homeless. This is the second eviction notice she has received from her mother, the first being when she was expelled from her womb.
Suddenly Giselle receives a lifeline by email: there’s an audition for the role of Oda Mae Brown in a new theatre production of Ghost. This is her golden chance to get a job, become a star and earn the money to buy the flat from her mother.
The Year of the Rooster Monk has a brilliant star but unfortunately loses momentum as it moves forward. The problem is not Giselle’s performance, which is engaging and funny, or the plot itself, an ordinary story riddled with ‘paranormal’ events and biographical memories. It feels rushed after the first half and the action considerably declines after she invokes the ghost that could help her keep her mother’s flat. The audition theme also disappears from the plot quite abruptly and the end is disappointing.
The strength of the show lies in the political connection that Giselle finds between her situation and wider events. During her audition for the role of the psychic in Ghost, Giselle relates an important realisation. The character, so brilliantly incarnated by Whoopi Goldberg, was used by the two film protagonists for their own selfish goals. She is the Magical Negro stock character who comes to the aid of the white star couple. This is later linked with her own circumstances. The flat, where she has spent most of her life, will be bought and refurbished by white buyers more fortunate than Giselle.
The show is composed of a mixture of genres. What begins as stand up comedy – including some mild audience interaction – develops into a more conventional monologue with interesting bits of physical theatre. Giselle’s recreation of her preborn times inside her mother’s womb is both amusing and moving. However, a few of the scenes and silences felt a tad too long and could benefit from editing.
Lydia Benecke at the keyboard offers great accompanying music and sound effects. Her recreation of random noises and mobile phone vibrations is just hilarious. She also has a great voice and delights the audience with her cover of The Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody’.
I deeply feel that the star rating doesn’t do much justice to this show (well, it doesn’t generally, but particularly in this case). As it is now it might just have two stars but when you are seated in the audience, listening to Giselle in the dark and humid Vaults, you know straight away that this show has the potential of easily becoming a 5 star production. The talent is there. The story is original, full of angry rants, and deals with important subjects relevant to the Millennial Generation (and beyond!). It just needs proper development. Maybe that could happen in the Year of the Dog?
Author: Giselle Lebleu Gant and Nathalie Adlam
Director: Nathalie Adlam
Producer: Les Foules
Booking Until: 11 March 2018
Box Office: 07598 676 202
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/the-year-of-the-rooster-monk/?spektrix_bounce=true