Written by Rebecca JS Nice for her own wonderful blog | reposted with permission
Less toxic and more tongue in cheek, this merry band of frolicking monks, create a series of immersive experiences for their intimate audience.
Expecting a greater emphasis on theatrical narrative based on the dark and sordid potential of a name like ‘Toxic Monks’, what greeted me was something far simpler and completely on point. This piece responds intrinsically to its surroundings and the varying levels of immersion offered by each space. As the spaces become more intimate the reception of their performance is gradually transformed.
A giggling audience huddled beneath the portico of the Dissenters Chapel, Ladbroke Grove eventually spy the merry monks bounding through the cemetery, dusting graves and watering flowers with a playful bumbling sense of movement. As they draw closer their distant voices floating towards us at first seem unreal, like far off angels. Can it really be emanating from these prize idiots’ mouths? As the quartet share the space of the portico with their audience it becomes clear that their antics provide a backdrop and agenda for a show stopping acoustic performance.
Their voices lead the way to paradise through a kitchen filled with incense and down the stairs to a dark vaulted chapel. Being serenaded beneath a candle lit arch with a black void behind and a coffin before me, this surreal scene causes fits of giggles as the all-knowing monk makes eye contact and flirts with his audience. But while all these antics are going on a constant soundtrack of harmonies both silly and serious touch on the Renaissance idea of transcending to a higher plane through the arts as we follow the leader to paradise. Crumbling into giggles once more as a trap door opens to reveal a large light waving about in smoke, the audience is completely oblivious of the transformative nature of this piece and that paradise does in fact await them above. ‘