Home » London Theatre Reviews » Moonfleece by Philip Ridley at the Pleasance Theatre | Review

Moonfleece by Philip Ridley at the Pleasance Theatre | Review

Josh Horrocks & James Downie. Credit - Gregory Birks
Josh Horrocks & James Downie. Credit – Gregory Birks

Tell one person something over the phone in the digital era, and if the news is intriguing enough, it will spread pretty much instantaneously. Such is the fate of Curtis (James Downie) in Moonfleece, who confides in Sarah (Lily Smith) about his plans for the early evening. Before long the tower block flat in which the play is set is filled with more people than is comfortable, and extra chairs must be sourced from – well, elsewhere  – partly because, despite Curtis’ affiliation to an apparently far-right political party, he is not about to instruct his henchmen Gavin (Joshua Dolphin) and Tommy (Josh Horrocks) to physically force out anyone that he would, ideally, not have there.

The politics of the play heavily features in the opening scenes. That is, if the play can even be divided into scenes. As the whole thing is set in one room, and in real time, the narrative just keeps rolling on. This could make for a dull and slow-paced evening. Not so here, with plenty of characters, all of which are sufficiently developed. That some of the characters are meeting one another for the first time makes it easier for the audience to get to know them all, particularly in the sheer bluntness of the ‘who are you?’ style of questioning that the pressurised environment allows for. After all, with extremists in the room, and some neighbourhood dogs repeatedly barking loudly and aggressively, who has the inclination for pleasantries?

It helps, I suppose, that added into the mix are Nina (Adaline Waby), a spiritual medium who happens to be in a wheelchair (due to an incident at ten years of age, she tells the room) and Jez (Joseph Aldous), a liberal-minded student journalist to balance things out. Link (Rocio Rodriguez-Inniss) taunts the besuited nationalists – at one point, for instance, they reference William the Conqueror, and Link immediately thereafter notifies them of William’s French heritage. Bizarrely, they also assert that Britain has always been Christian, with no reference to Anglo-Saxon paganism that preceded St Augustine’s missionary journey to England. And when one of the lads let slip he bought a meal from an Indian restaurant, I roared with laughter.

Demonstrating a sense of humour of the mischievous kind is a key strength of the play, as is the good old-fashioned storytelling, partially enacted in the first half by Jez and Alex (Seyan Sarvan), and in the second by Link and her older companion Zak (a thoroughly compelling Jaz Hutchins), who set about telling an elaborate fairy-tale story, albeit not one with a traditional fairy-tale ending. It’s a brilliant device that helps the play explore issues pertaining to outmoded views on sexual orientation (amongst other things) without being preachy or condescending.

The extremism isn’t confronted by the sort of intervention that the non-extremists could have between them, potentially, have put their minds to. Instead, there are tales of the personal kind, and young Curtis (come to think of it, the whole company were young), finally confronted with uncomfortable truths that he severely struggles to process, breaks down. It is difficult not to feel a modicum of temporary compassion for the tough guy that now lies on the floor weeping for his mother.

With the audience sat on two sides of the stage, with a side-on view from whichever ‘platform’, sightlines, depending on where someone is sat, could have been a little better. Arguably, the play within the play goes on a bit. These are, however, relatively minor faults. It is, in the end, “an experience not to be missed”, to quote the script – a multifaceted, gritty and intriguing production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

An abandoned home. A lost brother. A secret love. Curtis has arranged a meeting in a flat of a derelict tower block. As a child, Curtis lived happily here, but then tragedy struck and his elder brother died. Now, Curtis is seeing his brother’s ghost. With the aid of Gavin and Tommy, fellow members of the far right political party of which he is a leading figure, Curtis aims to find out why this ghost is haunting him. Things, however, do not go as planned.

Two squatters now occupy the flat, and one of them has a story to tell – a story that will change Curtis’s life forever.

Company Members
Rocio Rodriguez – Inniss
Tommy: Josh Horrocks
Gavin: Josh Dolphin
Curtis: James Downie
Alex: Seyan Sarvan
Jez: Joseph Aldous
Nina: Adeline Waby
Sarah: Lily Smith
Zak: Jaz Hutchins
Wayne: Ben Woodhall
Stacey: Nat Johnson
Directed by Max Harrison
Assistant Director Greg Birks & Ellie Morris
Produced by Maya Ellis
Designed by Kitty Hinchcliffe

Lidless Theatre Presents
by Philip Ridley
21st March -15th April 2018
Pleasance Theatre, London


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