Kings & Queens, Performing Arts Centre, Dunedin

14/10/2022 - 15/10/2022

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

25/10/2022 - 26/10/2022

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

21/03/2023 - 25/03/2023

Dunedin Arts Festival 2022

Nelson Arts Festival 2022

Production Details

Created and performed by Thom Monckton

Presented by Kallo Collective & A Mulled Whine

From the team behind The Artist

A brand-new show from the performer and team who brought us The Artist, acclaimed physical comedy performer Thom Monckton’s The King of Taking boasts circus, mime, and a whole lot of velvet.

Allergic to normal flooring, a childish and petulant King can only walk on red carpet – and cannot move without an effective fanfare.

You are hereby summoned to the royal grounds where this King callously barrels towards his own destruction.


A worldwide premiere!
Dunedin Arts Festival 2022
Fri 14 & SAT 15 October, 7pm
$25 – $40


“Thom Monckton has a rare and inventive gift for witty clowning.” ★★★★★ – InDaily Adelaide

guaranteed to leave cheeks aching from laughter and smiles”  ★★★★★ The University of Adelaide

“One hour of dreamy and delectable fun. Bravo!”  ★★★★ – The Barefoot Review

“Electric, Monty Python-esque, hilarious” – Art Murmurs

“Masterful miming and a theatre full of laughter” – Theatreview

“played to perfection [with] many impressive acrobatic feats, body contortions, and tableaux poses … The King of Taking is incredible” – Theatre Scenes

Circa One, Circa Theatre
21 – 25 March 2023
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm
Fri – Sat 8pm

$30 – $55

Created and performed by Thom Monckton
Featuring Tess Sullivan
Set & Costume Design - Gemma Tweedie
Light Design - Lucas Neal
Sound Design - Amanda Maclean
Costume Build - Victoria Gridley
Set Build - Lucas Neal
Sound Build - Oliver Devlin; Niamh Campbell-Ward
Technical Operation - Lucas Neal ; Niamh Campbell-Ward
Environmental Consultant - Heleen de Boever
Produced by Eleanor Strathern, A Mulled Whine Productions

Comedy , Theatre , Clown ,

55 mins

Entertaining excellence that pricks the pretensions of those in power

Review by John Smythe 22nd Mar 2023

A privileged, entitled, incompetent, vacuous despot is an ideal clown character for the inestimable skills of Thom Monckton (Moving Stationery, Only Bones 1.0, The Pianist, The Artist). He chooses to explore the syndrome in a medieval setting but it is timeless and universal.

There is no unease in the head that wears this hollow crown. He simply lives to have his every want met by minions called Jonathon, Edward et al, or Catherine – the archer who stands ever ready to unleash arrows of outrageous misfortune on those who incur this King’s displeasure. Then there is the alligator in the moat: a recurring sequence that features Monckton’s splendidly fluent mime skills.  

All the King wants is to get to his throne via the obligatory red carpets and with due fanfare – is that too much to ask? Who knew that the process of attaining that goal could generate so much ingeniously creative clowning, impeccably timed to provoke both admiration and laughter? If only the strangely absent Johnathan would heed the call of one of the hanging bellpulls … If only the bellpulls did what they were supposed to do …

The regal air the King tries to maintain collapses utterly and wondrously when he happens to step off the carpet, offering absolute proof that he is spineless. The divine quality of Monckton’s talents is equal and opposite to this King’s assumed right to rule.  

The height of his throne might match his ego but ascending to it is a whole new challenge. There is more to the artefact than initially meets the eye in this set design centrepiece by Gemma Tweedie (Monckton’s long time and multi-skilled collaborator). Likewise, the candelabra that comes to the fore when … No, I won’t say why; surprise is key to the way things develop and delight through unexpected twists.

That said, anticipation also engages us, thanks to the pile of gifts that await His Majesty’s pleasure. Audience members have been asked to bring a wrapped gift of something no longer wanted. They adorn a table we soon come to realise is also unattainable, due to the lack of red carpet approaches – until his convoluted logic finds a way.

Of course he’s not about to share the gifts, except when he does. Apart from the first gold-wrapped box which offers a whimsical riff on the essential nature of gifts, the ensuing sequence is clearly improvised, provoking Monckton’s King to respond appropriately, or inappropriately, to whatever emerges. Like all good improvisers, he is adept at making connections, building ‘stories’ and referring back.

Just when we may think the show is coming to an end, we – and the King himself – are treated to another big surprise. Suffice to say it involves more minimalist visual comedy and a lot more verbosity than we’ve heard hitherto. And it reveals why the programme credits include, “Featuring Tess Sullivan”. She literally shines as a counterpoint to the King while looping the story back to where it began.

Lucas Neal’s Light Design and Amanda Maclean’s Sound Design, as operated by Neal and Niamh Campbell-Ward, and Tweedie’s Costume Designs play important roles throughout, adding to the entertaining excellence we’ve come to treasure from Thom Monckton, The Kallo Collective and Eleanor Strathern’s A Mulled Whine Productions. As a contemporary clown show, The King of Taking sustains the classical purpose of the clown in court, pricking the pretentions of those in power lest they lose touch with reality.


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Masterful miming and a theatre full of laughter

Review by Melanie Stewart 26th Oct 2022

 Masterful miming and a theatre full of laughter

What have I been missing? Bad luck, bad timing or a mixture of both have meant that this is the first time I have seen Thom Monckton in action. Monckton and the Kallo Collective brings us a show that is joyful, family-friendly, and thoroughly entertaining.

Monckton combines comic circus skills with impeccable mime to tell us the story of a very self-indulgent King, ably assisted by several, never-seen, courtiers, and one poor overworked knight called Jonathan played by Tess Sullivan. Jonathan delivers the only dialogue of the play with superb clarity through a challenging costume.

There is not a lot of plot to the story, the entertainment is in the physical prowess of the performer. From slapstick to the subtle lifting of an eyelid Monckton conveys a wide range of emotions and characters. He is his most convincing in his portrayal of the petulant sulking of a spoiled man-child.

Throughout, Monckton’s uses his seemingly rubber limbs to battle challenges, such as using his hands, head, or other extremities to mount his oversize throne and navigate the red carpet (apparently our King is allergic to the floor and must travel everywhere on this carpet).

Monckton’s improvisation skills are put to the test when he opens his pile of presents, provided for him from his admiring subjects (the King requests his audience to bring him wrapped gifts). He doesn’t disappoint with his hilarious reactions to the eclectic selection of new or used objects.

The highlight for me involves his masterful miming of instructions to Catherine the archer on how to dispose of the body of yet another executed courtier. The clarity in the storytelling was astounding.

There is nothing more uplifting than being in a theatre full of laughter. The infectious giggles of children alongside the unrestrained cackling from several adults is the medicine we all need in these present times.

If Monckton and Kallo Collective return with another show, I will be first in line for tickets.


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Rapt audience applauds absurd tiny triumphs

Review by Terry MacTavish 16th Oct 2022

Moving Stationery, The Pianist, The Artist, now The King of Taking – national treasure Thom Monckton has become something of a staple treat at our arts festivals, and hurrah, here he is, the mixture as before, but then whoever complained about yet another slice of luscious banoffee pie? And Monckton’s brand of gentle clowning is no pie-in-the-face crudity either, just a sweet delicacy that leaves a pleasant velvet-cream after-taste.

We have in fact been promised a whole lot of velvet, and sure enough, there is a splendid velvet pavilion on the stage, with a very high red velvet throne simply exuding comic potential, while over his long underwear, The King (Monckton, naturally) is swathed in an impressively huge velvet robe. That yellow crown looks like cardboard to me, though.

The audience in the spacious Kings and Queens PAC ranges in age from the nice, grey-haired couple beside me, here because it’s been a tough couple of years and they loved The Pianist, to some delightful child with the most infectious giggle ever, who gets every nuance of the performance, probably able to anticipate the visual jokes precisely because The King is childish in the extreme.

Monckton, an experienced master of physical comedy, is surely finally entitled to cast himself as King, which incidentally means that as well as getting away with petulant behaviour, he has autocratic control over a horde of mysterious servants who can be summoned to obey his every whim.  Because The King is as clumsily inept as Monckton’s previous incarnations, and suffers from the additional handicap of being unable to walk except on royal red carpet, he needs a good deal of assistance, which his incompetent unseen slaves are distressingly unable to provide.

No matter, if you are King you can have them instantly executed, and almost my favourite gag is Monckton’s constant mimed instructions to an archer in the wings to dispatch them with bow and arrow, effectively managed with hilarious sound effects. The body count is rising, a bit of a problem when Your Royal Highness (get it?) can’t quite reach the bell-pull, let alone climb up to the scary throne unaided.

Seemingly just one servant survives, a certain ‘Jonathan’, who has been bellowed for constantly, their appearance surely delayed for maximum effect. Spoiler alert, just before ‘Jonathan’ finally does appear, we hear a certain peculiar clanking offstage that hints at their truly terrific costume.

Tess Sullivan as Jonathan copes valiantly and entertainingly with this, limbs flailing wildly. It is intriguing to see Monckton, usually a solo artist, interacting with another. I do question whether in a mime show it is advisable to introduce a speaking actor – we were managing just fine with Monckton’s extraordinarily expressive face and body – but Sullivan’s projection matches their physical dexterity and it is an amusing turn.

What of the ‘Taking’, you ask? Well, the audience has been invited to donate gifts for His Greedy Majesty, and the opening of these offerings gives Monckton, who has been interacting with his admiring court throughout, a chance to further delight us with his skills of improvisation. Even my sophisticated guest is amused, when he is clearly disgusted by the small size of her present.

Throughout, our Clown-King makes engaging little sounds, his body flipping from handstands to a boneless folding in on itself that recalls Alice in Wonderland’s ‘reeling and writhing and fainting in coils’, while he battles the sheer perversity of stuff, and the rapt audience applauds his absurd tiny triumphs.

Amazingly I see it is ten whole years since I first raved about Monckton’s prowess, likening his rubbery body to Ronald Searle cartoons, and already yearning for the next show. I admire the subtle differences he brings to his winning style – the higher status of this latest creation underlining the need to prick the pretensions of rulers who can order executions, and start wars. With real-life greedy autocrats of the Putin ilk bestriding the world stage, we need your zany humour more than ever before, Thom Monckton. Please command yourself to go on forever.


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