I am a Moon

Wed 8th – Thu 9th August 2012

reviews

Emma Yandle

at 08:51 on 9th Aug 2012

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I really wish this has been better. Presenting itself as "a poetic and darkly humorous journey into the beauty of our ugly side", it sounded like a fascinating new work from China's Nanjing University. Unfortunately, despite moments of insight into the troubling and tragic side of desire, the play suffered from a lack of structure, with plot lines sporadically appearing with little sense of unity or resolution.

Multimedia was a big part of the production with the stage split into two angled projection screens. These were either used to project film clips or images accompanying the actors, or displayed the subtitles that translated into English a performance mainly in Mandarin. When not in use, one of the screens cleverly became a hazy veil behind which part of the acting occurred. The combination of words and images this enabled could be put to a really clever use and occasionally the Yesoo Company did this. A clip of a rocket launch merges into that of a flowering bud and an actor darkly discusses hickeys whilst covered by a projected image of a spotted cheetah. However mostly it was used for seemingly random montages of news clips or nature films without clear artistic purpose.

The main problem with the projection was that it was often done badly; from the outset the production was riddled with technological hitches. Perhaps they hadn't had a chance to rehearse in the space. Subtitles were sometimes blocked by theatre lights or the actors standing in front of the projector. These hiccups made the play look sloppy and the issue with subtitles meant it was really hard to work out what was going on at certain moments.

The cast of one male and two females played five characters, differentiated by some subtle cross-dressing or a pre-recorded film segment. Although there was dialogue, they mainly spoke in soliloquies. The topics of choice were love and self-worth, mostly looked at through sex and the script was totally unabashed by exploring its weirder side. Within a minute a character was discussing his addiction to porn, and a girl munching on a packet of crisps calmly recounted watching a neighbour masturbate through his window. Woven in and out of these scenes were clips of a rocket launch to the moon holding a man searching for a woman, only to find that the moon is as cratered and damaged as everywhere else.

Two of the cast spoke in Mandarin, with the standout actor, Lei Shuran who played Angela, speaking in English. Whilst the other actors were good (on the basis of their facial expressions) she really shone as a self-proclaimed fat girl with an innocently amusing accent, at once acknowledging the reality of how she looks and yet wanting to escape from being defined by it. It was individual moments like this that were the enjoyable and affecting moments of the production and I feel ‘I am a Moon’ would have been much better if it had just stuck to exploring the thoughts and feelings of this motley collection of people.

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Elizabeth O'Connor

at 10:01 on 9th Aug 2012

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I am a Moon is an odd little play. On the one hand, it is wonderfully imaginative, examining both the ordinary and profound aspects of human existence within the context of a greater cosmos at large. A screen at the back of the stage provides a frame for beautiful projected montages of space travel, the natural cycle of seasons, and the characters' hazy memories. On the other hand it's a little confusing, occasionally tripping over its own complex framework and never quite captures the simplicity of the characters and their world that it seems to want to portray.

The structure and vision of the play should be praised for its creativity and experimental attitude to the medium of theatre. The piece's basic structure combines impressionistic images, clips of conversation and monologue in a way that is instantly arresting and consistently engaging. The construction of a dialogue between one character speaking English, and the other the original Mandarin lends the play a sort of stylised surrealism that is intriguing to watch. Professor Lü Xiaoping's script is refreshing in its (almost deceptive) simplicity and the strangeness of the play's world denoted not by complex metaphor or flowery musings but by the blurred vision of a short-sighted young man.

The acting is generally of a good standard. The lead male captures the underlying fragility and repressed longings of his character nicely, providing contrast to the self-assured arrogance of Justin. The standout performance, however, goes to Angela (Lei Shuran) whose portrayal of an odd young girl is impressively aware of both the character's comic potential, and her endearing innocence and simple-mindedness. Her emotional breakdown towards the end of the play is one of the most moving moments I have seen at the Fringe so far.

For all the production's strengths, I left the theatre feeling a little underwhelmed. Whilst I enoyed the play's unique brand of strangeness and lack of restraint, it had a slightly alienating effect and I felt that I was never able to fully connect to any of the characters or situations portrayed. A disembodied dialogue about a space mission is typical of this, especially as it is left completely unexplained. I'm not even sure if it was a space mission they were talking about. It seemed to bear little or no relation to the stories of the characters, and seemed like a slightly pretentious add-on. Having made this criticism, 'I Am a Moon' is definitely worth seeing - Lei Shuran's performance alone is worth the price of a ticket, and the play's underlying ideas and artistic direction are unforgettable.

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