by Anita Sullivan
Monumental_Lily Brik


Mel's father disappears on a business trip to Moscow. She steals her mother's credit-card and flies to Russia to find out what happened to him. She is sixteen, alone and in danger. But in Moscow anything can happen and Mel awakes the statues of two revolutionary heroes; poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. An adventure begins… and perhaps a romance… as they explore the high-life and lowlife, the past and present, of an extraordinary city.

'Monumental' was inspired by a trip I took to Moscow in the mid 1990's. One night I came across Mayakovsky's statue and was fascinated by its defiant expression. Once I'd read Maykovsky's poetry, and found out about his life-story, I had to write about him. The play also features other vibrant 1920's Futurist creatives such as artist/ spokesman David Burliuk, poet Velimir Khlebnikov and performer/ muse Lily Brik.

'Monumental' was first produced by Grid Iron Theatre Company in 1999 at The Citizen's Theatre in Glasgow, directed by Ben Harrison. This production was a site-specific promenade through the theatre and surrounding city. A second production in 2001 was performed by New Venture Theatre Brighton as a studio piece, directed by June Rowe.

Winner of Tab Lab's Playwrights' Slam 2001

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes.


(Vladimir and Mel fling themselves into their seats on the metro as the train starts).

Tannoy   -Mayakovskya. Mayakovsky square. This is the Zamoskvoretskya line. Next stop Tverskya.

Vlad    -Well! The traffic is insane. No wonder they’ve stopped the droshkies, the horses must be terrified. So many private cars. So loud. So fast. The pace of progress! Hundreds of shops and restaurants. All full of lobsters and bananas… Even displayed outside! It truly is a workers’ paradise. Modern Moscow is beyond my wildest dreams.

Mel     -Must be a shock.

Vlad    -Why?

Mel     -Well, obviously after all this time…

Vlad    -Time?

Mel     -Obviously. Er… what’s this Poets’ Bar like, then?

Vlad    -Like nothing you have ever experienced. White guard and red guard drinking together guns on the table; biocosmists, imagists, ego-cubists, expressionists; any ‘ist’ you care to be scrounging cigarettes and vodka; and of course we futurists. (The train stops).

Tannoy  -Tverskya. This is Tverskya.

Vlad    -Burliuk shouting ‘I like pregnant men’ among the constructivist mobiles that confuse the walls. (An opera singer gets on the train). The crowd chanting…

Singer  -Any requests. Ladies and Gentlemen?

Vlad    -…. “Pineapples eat...

Singer  -
Any soprano aria.

Vlad    -.... Hazelhens chew…

Singer  -I can sing it.

Vlad    -…Bourgeoisie your end’s coming to you!”

Singer  - (Begins the death Aria from La Traviata). “Ma se tornando non m’hai salvato, a niuno in terra salvarmi è dato...”


Mayakovsky State Museum:

Mayakovsky’s poems in English:

Gagarin’s life:

Gagarin’s death:



"... The basic idea of following a 1917 revolutionary and a politically illiterate modern kid through the streets of the ultimate post-communist city is brilliant; the final scene where Mayakovsky feels his huge, lusty life-force freezing back into the cold stone of his statue is heart-rending, full of terrible political resonances, as well as the deepest literary echoes" Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman

"A surfeit of imagination... a remarkable piece of theatre. With it's twists and tangents, 'Monumental' is fascinating in the telling." Mark Fisher in The Heral

"Intellectual debate is achieved through the stunning theatrical eclecticism if the company, combining street theatre, intricate visual trickery, styalised performance and the trademark magic realism -you'd have to be a statue not to be moved." Steve Cramer in Scotland on Sunday



Monumental at the Citizen's theatre

Publicity still from Grid Iron production at the Citizens Theatre

Monumental_Citizen's theatre

Lily (Sinaid Cussack) and Mel (Pauline Lockhart) in the Grid Iron production (with Francis Gallop the set designer just visible in the background).

Monumental Brighton poster


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