Saturday, 23 April 2011

MOONLIGHT - Donmar Warehouse

MOONLIGHT is relatively later Pinter and at moments it seemed like a Pinter's Greatest Hits compilation. Lots of remembrances of things past. A relatively silent woman with sexual secrets. A dying old man remembering his lost sex life. The reappearance of a mistress. Confessions of adultery. Two brothers one-upping each other with odd verbal improvisations. Flights of poetry. However, Pinter's Greatest Hits are better than most playwrightis and, in the hands of fine actors and a director who understands the play, this production of MOONLIGHT was fascinating.
What we have here is an odd family saga, framed by poetic solilquies from the daughter who committed suicide some time before the play begins. An old man is on his deathbed His wife sits by the bed embroidering, listening to her husband's memories, fantasies and insults, sometimes adding her own commentary. Their two sons are in a shabby flat playing odd word games with each other in an attempt to stave off their feelings of ambivalence and guilt about their father. Nonetheless, those feelings sometimes rise to the surface, usually in moments of silence. One son seems deathly ill; the other collapses occasionally. The father's mistress and the mother's lover apppear -- in reality or in the characters' imaginations? Reality and imagination are blurred in MOONLIGHT, as are past and present.  None of the characters lives in the present: they are either mired in memory or frantically busy avoiding thinking about present reality. The most emotionally powerful moments are often moments of silence.
One couldn't ask for a better cast than the one the Donmar has assembled. David Bradley shows once again that he is the best of England's older character actors. For years he played comic roles for the RSC. I'd love to see him take on KING LEAR. He knows how to make his character fascinating without making him likeable. Deborah Findlay was, as always, spot on. The most important aspect of her role in in her non-verbal reactions and one could read her character's mind.As the sons, Daniel Mays, one of England's best thirty-something character actors, and Liam Garrigan were able to intimate the emotions they were frantically busy hiding.
After pulling every possible theatrical trick to turn the sows ear that is GREENLAND into a silk purse at the National, it was good to be reassured that, given a good script, Beijan Shebani has a gift for creating an effective ensemble even out of star players like these.
One can quibble about paying full prices for a 75 minute play, but with such luxury casting and a powerful script, the cost is more than justified.

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