The Moon The Moon

Southwark Playhouse, 9 – 20 June 2009

Reviewed for the London Theatre Blog

The Moon The Moon explores, with harrowing psychological realism, our ability to harm one another even with the best of intentions. Attempting to cure the Man (Jon Spooner, who also directs) of a suicidal malaise, the Young Woman (Suzanne Ahmet) and the Older Man (Tim Chipping) progress, always with a genuine desire to do good, from an over-anxious suicide watch to drugging, incarceration and worse.

The Moon The Moon explores, with escalating surrealism, the blurred relationship between perception and reality. His memory and identity fractured by grief, the Man must choose between his human rescuers’ kill-or-cure approach and the unfathomable alternative offered by his supernatural suitor, the Moon (Helen Cassidy).

The Moon represents the Man’s memory of his wife, a dour but sentimental Scot, whom he must rediscover and petition for forgiveness before his keepers will be satisfied that he’s ready to leave the safety of his prison. Cassidy’s performance is restrained, and consequently cannot save the odd over-prolonged scene, such as when the couple read aloud from one another’s diaries, from becoming static and dull.

The Moon, a redheaded deity with a dirty mind and a knowing, mischievous kink in her cheek, makes no secret of the fact that she desires the Man romantically, whereas the mortal couple feel a more clinical responsibility to fix what’s broken inside him. Yet while they advocate rose-tinting and distorting his past as a route to recovery, she encourages him to acknowledge and own his grief rather than amputate it. Cassidy proves herself a versatile and confident character actor, successfully conveying the fickle and unknowable, yet flawed and human aspects of a being that wouldn’t look out of place in the ancient Greek pantheon.

Rhys Jarman’s set – a stark, bare stone basement – is full of nifty concealed compartments containing cupboards and windows.

Rhys Jarman’s set is walled with dozens of doors which allow the various competing forces in to influence the Man, but none of which can be opened from his side. The only way for him to reach back towards any of them is through Jarman’s giant moon – part window, part spotlight, given a cool luminescence by lighting designer Ben Pacey.

At its best, art invites multiple valid interpretations without becoming so diffuse as to sacrifice the clarity of the creators’ intentions.

The Moon The Moon is many overlapping things, but never feels like collage. Its elements complement rather than contradict one another, allowing interpretations from the supernatural to the naturalistic to coexist without ever suggesting that Unlimited Theatre are in anything less than complete control.

Written by Clare Duffy, Jon Spooner and Chris Thorpe

Crew includes Jon Spooner (director), Rhys Jarman (designer), Ben Pacey (lighting designer) and Mic Pool (sound designer)

Cast includes Suzanne Ahmet (The Young Woman), Helen Cassidy (The Moon), Tim Chipping (The Older Man) and Jon Spooner (The Man)

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