Monk Misterioso: A Journey into the Silence of Thelonius Monk 
Sunday, November 5th, 2017
Reviewer: Reg Webb

I feel somewhat out of my depth with this one since, being totally blind, the visual aspects of presentation are lost on me.

Monk Misterioso: A Journey Through The Silence Of Thelonius Monk is a theatrical performance with music, written by Stefano Benni, and directed by one of its two vocal performers, Filomena Campus.

The spoken content of Mr Benni's script, as presented to us last Sunday, seemed mainly concerned with making a connection between Monk's seven years of artistic silence, and the ‘black consciousness’ movement, gaining traction among African Americans at the time.

Monk's stated aim was to register his protest at the McCarthy witch hunt, with its philistine concentration on creative people, whom the likes of the General and J. Edgar Hoover, viewed as suspect - likely Communist agitators/ revolutionaries.


If McCarthy was mentioned at all on Sunday, I must have missed it, creating an image of Monk more reminiscent of Charles Mingus than the strange, lonely eccentric composer and performer.

The music, unsurprisingly, was concentrated on Monk's material, in interesting arrangements by MD  and  flautist  Rowland  Sutherland. 

 

Pianist Pat  Thomas’ playing at times gravitated in

style towards Cecil Taylor, while Orphy Robinson's vibes, within the arrangements, were reminiscent of a celesta - an instrument of which Monk was fond.

 

Perhaps the highlight for me was Rowland Sutherland's flute - a beautiful sound which reminded me of Eric Dolphy, when flute is so often played by sax players, doing it in their spare time.

The instrumentalists were completed by Dudley Philips on bass, who brought drive and accuracy to the proceedings.

The two singers, director Filomena Campus, and Cleveland Watkiss, combined acting and singing quite successfully, including scat, most of which worked.

Going back to my opening remarks about me and theatrical presentation, I had the impression the the overall impact on a sighted audience was greater than it was for me, since I didn't get much impression of the sweep and power of the drama - rather a succession of monologues and tunes.

 

All well done but, in terms of theatre, lacking the dramatic impact of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, perhaps the most famous play dealing with America's tendency to look for scapegoats rather than addressing its own deep-seated prejudices.

An enjoyable evening, and I'm genuinely glad that some clearly enjoyed it more than I did.

Thank you Steve, Chris and the team for making it possible for us to hear a high quality performance, without having to go to London to get it.