Arts Review: Man in the Moon

Dir. Tony Devlin, Tron, 5-7 March

Glenda Jackson once said “Acting is not about dressing up. Acting is about stripping bare”.

Bareness, in every sense of the word, is the overwhelming theme of Pearse Elliott’s beautiful one-man play Man in the Moon. On a near bare stage, featuring only a bench and a bottle of cider, Irishman Sean Dorran spends a soul-searching night contemplating life, love and loss.

The action takes place at Half Moon Lake, a site which is long past its glory days. Formerly inhabited by all kinds of wildlife, we are told by Sean that “an otter hasn’t been seen here in over 20 years”. The cold, blue-ish lighting and a huge moon projection looming in the background evokes this desolate lakeside scene with wonderful minimalism.

Ciaran Nolan’s portrayal of Sean is, quite simply, incredible. The bare stage is filled with this chatty, larger than life character re-enacting vivid scenes and sketches from his life. It is a credit to Nolan’s talent that it feels as if the stage is teeming with a whole cast of characters when he tells a story. Special commendation is also to be given to his dancing, which is as comedic relief to the tragedy within the play, and also acts as a metaphor for Sean’s approach to facing his problems.

Within the first half of the drama we see that life for Sean hasn’t been easy – yet his quick humour is his defence against all the difficult things that have happened to him.

However, the second half of the play takes a noticeably darker twist as the issue of suicide emerges. As the character recalls those he knew who took their own lives, Nolan drops in volume and exuberance – a pin could be heard dropping in the theatre as the audience hangs on his every word.

Growing increasingly psychotic as he rages in frustration at the meaningless waste of young lives – so immersed in his world are the audience, so enraptured by Nolan’s stark portrayal of human vulnerability, they forget this is even acting. Definitely, this is the highlight of Nolan’s performance tonight. He brings to life Elliot’s beautiful lines– “You can be happy, then sad, as quickly as a cloud covers the sun”. He thinks of how tempted he has been in the past to end his own life but resolves never to be “another man in the moon” and resolves fight for his life with everything he has.

This play is a must see – a beautiful ode to life, and what is means to keep on living.

[Alice Lannon]

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