The Lowry, Salford; Thursday 26th September, 2019
What do you do when your mate always needs to have a chat? When they’ve clearly got something going on but then they don’t actually come out and say it? Just how long can you continue to be there for them?
Under Three Moons by Daniel Kanaber delves inquisitively into the murky world of strained emotions and one very erratic friendship – a reflective hour that demands the invasive exploration of two reluctant individuals in the hope that the fractious interaction between them can somehow be deciphered.
Michael (Kyle Rowe) is a laid back macho man, a guy with swagger who takes time to gaze longingly into the distance as he takes each huge puff from his cigarette – each deep breath seeming to take in much more than just smoke, as if perhaps the nicotine hits are getting him closer and closer to resolving the complex anguishes that trouble him.
In contrast his friend Paul (Darren Kuppan) is a far more despondent worrier, an arms-folded personification of anxiety, constantly appearing to be agitated both physically and emotionally. He seems much less fun to be around, but his opening conversations with Micheal make it clear why this is so.
The three moons in question refer to the play’s three acts, together they tell the story of three separate nights, each a decade apart. Hence, as the performance progresses, the characters are seen to evolve and mature, their priorities and concerns transform suddenly and sharply as the acts transition from one era to the next.
This progression makes for an interesting opening to the latter two acts as the spoken words slowly begin to paint a blurry picture of what changes have taken place, much like the pieces of some fiendish puzzle beginning to arrange themselves into some rationalisable form.
Across the ages the two men talk of family illnesses, their careers, their relationships, holidays they want to go on – all blokey banter as you might expect but character-wise their friendship appears to be heavily strained. Throughout the show they give the strong impression of friends who are simply tolerating each other, perhaps they don’t even like each other.
At points they don’t even come across as actually being friends; there is a far greater sense of them perhaps being family: they behave as if they didn’t choose to be acquainted, hence they simply agree to tolerate each other as best they can and get on with it. Which raises a fascinating question that clearly lies at the heart of this show: just why are these two men friends?
There seem to be three entities on stage: the two characters are visible and present; the relationship between them isn’t and has to be inferred. The sense of mystery grows throughout the show as the script regularly hurls intriguing clues into the plot, but there is never quite enough explanation, and from the point of view of keeping the audience engaged it’s certainly good that no explanation ever comes.
The clear strength of Under Three Moons lies in what is not said on stage and what is therefore left to the audience to infer and deduce. Given this aura of mystery, the pacing feels a tiny bit too slow at times, at several points the show teeters dangerously close to lacking in action or thrust. This isn’t helped by the dour and melancholic nature of the friends’ interaction.
But despite this, Under Three Moons delivers an impressive and innovative concept in story-telling, a fascinating pair of characters who share an even more fascinating and intriguing interaction that has clearly lasted for decades. The plot is full of ponderous possibilities and thanks to two excellent acting performances the lasting impression is of a story that isn’t quite finished yet, there seems to be a lot more to the tale of Michael and Paul that we have yet to discover.
Photography: Alex Meads, Decoy Media
|Visual pleasure||A deeply evocative set with very dim lighting, all the action took place on a circular platform lit from above by a moon and a handful of stars. Visually appealing but at points the lack of physicality made for too static a presentation.||3|
|Auditory pleasure||Nice use of sound effects for the three separate acts, perfectly adequate for a performance dominated by spoken words.||3|
|Architecture & Theme||An interesting concept to stretch the character development over such a lengthy time-frame. The strongest and most memorable feature of the show was the mystery element, but occasionally that was lost among the “bickering” of the two quarrelsome friends.||3|
|Artistic delivery||Excellent acting performances by both actors, particularly in the manner that they portrayed the maturing of their respective characters.||4|
|Overall impact||An entertaining show that stirred up a variety of emotions as each individual character developed. Felt either slightly too long or slightly too slow-paced, or perhaps even both; something intriguing and interesting was there but perhaps it was spread a little too thin.||3|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|