Want the Moon present Shadows at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Want the Moon present Shadows
Want the Moon present Shadows

Even the glasses are white. Shadows is set in a bar and the beer kegs, the cupboards, the crates, the cutlery, the wine rack and wine bottles, the limes (yes) and the mop and bucket are all spray-painted white which, in front of a black backdrop, makes for a very nice design feature (no credit on the programme). Ultimately, whether it helps us understand the narrative I’m not so sure. But it’s good to look at.

I do think the production misses a trick though. The white surfaces are effectively used for projection as the show progresses and the time-slip cross-overs between fantasy and reality are marked by lighting changes (Designer Joe Pilling) – stark for reality, warm for what are essentially day-dreams.

White surfaces take colour well and the use of bolder coloured lighting would help us, perhaps, get what is going on more quickly and confidently as the opening sequences of the play do tend to meander. By the time you get your head around what is actually going on you kind of feel you’d like to see those opening sequences again.

Unlike any of the bars I frequent, where you have to use a kind of ten-pound-note semaphore in the crush to get served, this place seems to have virtually no customers at all affording the bar staff the time to play such intriguing games as “Give me a title with, say, ‘Time’ in it.” The thing about games is they can be a tad tedious for those who aren’t playing – and there’s a lot of them in this. But having dealt with that, and getting over the slightly unreal feel of an all-white bar with no customers, this is a really good show.

Ross White is James, an under-manager at the bar, who is supervising newby Nat (Madeline Hatt). These two have a serious spark between them and their uber-natural performances help us to dispel the unreality of the situation. White has a great throw-away style but never throws a line away whilst Hatt is adept at probing and niggling and ferreting into the soul of her boss and, despite being love-lorn, never lets her feisty guard down or betrays her individualistic instincts. Yes, they play games and they eat biscuits and they lark around and stand on the roof terrace and talk about suicide, but what is it between them, what is it that makes a relationship tick, what is that indefinable X factor that tells us that two people are clicking? Or not, as the case may be. White and Hatt are a great dramatic partnership who have the ability to take us into the deep-seated intricacies of boy-meets-girl and give us insights into something, let’s be honest, we all have issues with and unfinished business extant.

Shadows is written by Dan Sareen and it’s a clever, witty and intriguing script that paints a kind of stark landscape with warm bits. At times he gets under our skin but ultimately opens up our hearts. In Jessica Williams, he has found a truly empathetic director who understands that she has two outstanding actors to work with and knows how to let them off the leash and give them the space to explore the language and express the emotions. Good job by all, I would say.

Want The Moon Theatre Company is taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe this August (2-26 @ Zoo Playground 1) and Shadows is exactly the sort of show that should go down a storm there – though, personally, I would restrict the near constant movement of beer kegs around the stage. Also, a definite no-no for me is the playing of ‘silent’ music on stage: the actors share ear-phones and we sit there and watch them listening to music we can’t hear.

Seriously? Hatt’s character is a wannabe concert pianist who, in the projected sequences, plays a ropey upright badly. Perhaps it’s deliberate, but it didn’t come across that way. These are things, I believe, that might be worth looking at before the Edinburgh venture. It’s definitely an enjoyable show, though and I wish them well.

4 stars

Review by Peter Yates

Nat and James work together, struggling against a possibly imagined attraction, without the space to explore their chemistry. Dissecting the pressures of modern-day romance and the nature of dreams, Shadows sees Nat delve into fantasy, never sure if James is flirting with her, or if they are edging closer to friendship. As her expectations move further away from reality, Nat must try to break away from a life where she feels desperately stuck. When attraction isn’t as simple as love at first sight, how do our brains compensate for our innate desire to be loved?

Written by: Dan Sareen
Directed by: Jess Williams
Produced by: Ellen Harris
Cast: Ross White, Madeline Hatt
Dates and Times:
Tristan Bates Theatre: 2nd- 6th July, 2019
https://www.actorscentre.co.uk/theatre

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