Review: She Kills Monsters

By Joe Rossiter

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It is no easy task to take on a piece of theatre with the range and depth of She Kills Monsters, Qui Nguyen’s exploration of LGBTQ+ identity and loss through Dungeons and Dragons, but Foot of the Hill’s take is as beautiful as it is profound.

Narrator introduces ’s Agnes, a high school English teacher in 1990s Athens, Ohio. She resolves to play the Dungeons and Dragons game written by her sister Tilly, portrayed by Rigel Cian, who died with their parents in a car crash three years prior. Duckworth’s performance is heart-warming, skilfully conveying both the grief and sadness Agnes feels for her sister, as well as the emotional coming to terms with the latter’s sexuality, a casualty of their distant relationship while Tilly was alive.

Throughout the script, there is a stark divide between the real and fantastical worlds, with Cian leading by example, showing Tilly’s strength in the world she has created for herself alongside the devastation she feels at the difficulty of leading that life in reality. Together with Duckworth, a tender sibling relationship is charmingly created.

This theatrical range is replicated by the characters who join the sisters in the game: ’s dominatrix Lillith is the empowered version of her closeted high school reality, Lily. Similarly, Kelly becomes Kelliope, the elf described as an incredibly strong supermodel, deftly shifting between the magical character and the high school teenager. finishes the group as Orcus, (former) overlord of the underworld, and Ronnie outside the game: his commitment to the character is unwavering in everything from facial expression to his hyping the audience for a dance battle that does not disappoint.

The professionalism of the choreography as a whole is a pleasure to watch, its detail and delivery testament to the synchronicity of an ensemble who are truly comfortable with on another

The adventure is facilitated by Chuck, an awkward high schooler hilariously played by James Porter, whose vocal and physical ability breathe vibrant life into already high-quality writing. In a joke that refuses to age, the game is broken into continuously by Steve (the mage), with making endearing that which could easily become annoying. excellently handles Miles, Agnes’s boyfriend and part-time humanoid gelatinous cube, switching seamlessly from rage to gentleness.

Sadly, Covid prevents the hugely talented from performing as Vera, Agnes’s friend and guidance counsellor in the school. Yet, she need not have been particularly worried about her understudy, as brings attitude and confidence to juxtapose Agnes’s ambivalence.

This is only the tip of Al-Khalil Coyle’s iceberg involvement, however, executing her role as movement director with a masterclass of choreography. is particularly striking in her roles as Farrah the fairy and Evil Gabbi, the cheerleading bully, joined by Gabrielle Sands as Evil Tina in an intimidatingly authentic partnership. Gardiner’s immense skill and versatility are shown time and again throughout the piece, from the heavy-handedness of her devastating wrestling moves to the delicate ballet moves of her fairy.

The professionalism of the choreography as a whole is a pleasure to watch, its detail and delivery testament to the synchronicity of an ensemble who are truly comfortable with one another.

The themes of grief, LGBTQ+ identity and ‘wish fulfilment’ as Dungeons and Dragons is described, are very relevant today, especially for a student audience exploring their own identities

and as tech director and assistant combine to match the quality onstage, with expertly chosen lighting choices in particular: transitioning from cold isolation to incredible technicolour. leads the design team of and Rosie Haffenden, creating exquisite props and set which complement and embellish the cast’s performances

as stage manager is joined by producer Bethan Chinn, with assistants and Naoise Wellings, the latter taking on a number of different responsibilities across the show.

Director Sophie Tice, victim to Covid with Stokes Neustadt, can be truly proud of this team. Ably assisted by Esther Duckworth, who took on extra responsibility this week with Al-Khalil Coyle, it is testament to Tice’s influence and creative vision that such an assured performance was carried out in her absence. The process of dealing with such important and personally meaningful topics for many of the team is beautifully described in her director’s notes. 

The themes of grief, LGBTQ+ identity and ‘wish fulfilment’, as Dungeons and Dragons is described, are very relevant today, especially for a student audience exploring their own identities. The responsibility of taking them onstage could easily be a burden on many actors, but it is simply not the case for this cast. There is an authenticity to their voices and a joy in their performances that is genuinely striking.

Finally, there are some standalone lines which encapsulate the talent of this cast. Kwan’s delivery of ‘copulate’ had an innocence that lulled me into a false sense of security before I looked up the definition. ‘I’m definitely straight’, is the simple phrase from Porter that speaks to so much more than the sum of its parts. ‘Violence makes me hot’, says Murphy’s Lillith. Too hot, it turns out, for Collingwood’s fire alarm.

Image credit: FTHTC

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