Friday, 27 September 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Under Three Moons - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.

The Aldridge Studio was packed out for this production of Daniel Kanaber’s Under Three Moons. It was thrilling to see such enthusiasm for a piece of new writing, as well as a testament to Box Of Tricks’ growing reputation, who have kicked off their latest touring production at the Lowry Theatre.

Under Three Moons is a strong two-hander which charts the friendship between two seemingly mismatched men over the course of twenty years, as they meet to discuss their feelings and changing lives under three different starry night skies.

Kyle Rowe and Darren Kuppen both gave excellent performances as Michael and Paul. Michael hides a kinder and goofy nature beneath a wannabe tough guy persona before mellowing into a settled yet insecure family man, while Paul carries the pain of his lonely childhood into his life as a brash and over-confident businessman. These characters were a delight to watch, as each actor had excellent comic timing as well as the ability to convey their troubles with the smallest of details.

The script's greatest strength was the depiction of genuine friendship between the two characters. This depiction, while never crossing over into sentimentality, was infused with a sense of the loving bond between them, even as they bickered and acted in hostile ways to one another. Despite the heavy themes being dealt with, the play was never depressing or dour, as the direction by Adam Quayle handled the script’s delicate balance of humour and pathos with skill, never allowing one of these elements to overshadow or obscure the other.

The drama is at times somewhat overstuffed with an abundance of themes, many of which were never given the space to properly develop. While some of this may have been intentional, as two people will of course encounter a vast amount of different issues over the course of twenty years, it still felt like too much at times. In particular, a reference to a MeToo style incident involving Paul’s father and his secretary was jarring. The themes which worked best were the ones which were sustained and recurred throughout the men’s lives.

The production wisely eshewed any over-the-top theatrics to depict the passage of time, instead allowing a few simple clothes' changes and the performances to relay how Paul and Michael have changed over the years. Much was conveyed with a slightly deeper voice and a stiffer body language. The simple setting of a wooden stand beneath some electric stars and a velvety moon allowed the space for the actors to convey the changing setting, while the sound design really let the audience feel the biting winds of Dijon and Pembrokeshire, as well as the claustrophobic experience of staying in a house with paper-thin walls

The script kept a tight hold on its characters, even as they changed and matured. There were still echoes of the two insecure schoolboys trying to keep warm at a French campsite, even as they found themselves middle-aged men, standing in the family home of Michael one Christmas. But of course that’s what the title told us from the start. It’s only ever the same moon and stars despite how it appears to Paul and Michael looking up at them, just as they have the same hopes and fears as they always did despite all the changes they think they’ve gone through.

Reviewer - Richard Gorick
on - 26/9/19

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