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Review of Luna Gale at Hampstead Theatre

Luna Gale at Hampstead TheatreHampstead Theatre have brought us a production that is worth paying attention to. Luna Gale, directed by Michael Attenborough and written by Rebecca Gilman, brings a relatable story of childcare systems, social workers and beliefs that carries strong heart and great performances.

Attenborough’s direction is simple yet effective and allows the story to progress via Gilman’s endearing plotline. The production’s scenes flow smoothly on its wide and stunning set. Sharon Small plays Caroline Cox, a social worker starting to feel worn out by her many cases and situations she’s dealt with over the years (and recently) but tries to not allow it affect her judgement and work.

Luna Gale is the newborn daughter of young, teenage parents Karlie (Rachel Redford) and Peter (Alexander Arnold), who are also meth addicts. When they bring Luna into the ER, due to sickness, Caroline Cox steps in from the state’s social services, when it is brought to their attention that Luna may not be in the best hands.

Small’s performance is enthralling and fantastically strong. She attracts nothing but support and admiration from the audience. Her struggle throughout the events of the play are at some points so believable that they are instantly heart-breaking. Another great character depiction comes from Alexander Arnold, who plays Peter and who captivates the audience through his caring attitude, change and honesty. The rest of the cast provide strong support throughout as well.

Gilman’s writing is clear and focuses strongly on Caroline’s struggle to do what’s right that it ends up being frustrating for the audience when other characters stand in her way. Unfortunately, other characters, with the exception of Peter and possibly Karlie, don’t have as much depth and detail written into them as Caroline. This may be deliberate but sometimes you can’t help think that some characters (like the Corey Johnson’s Pastor Jay, Caroline Faber’s Cindy or Ed Hughes’ Cliff) are written slightly two-dimensional to just cause hold-ups and problems for our heroine. However, the character of Caroline Cox is so well-written and relatable that other characters, no matter how similarly written, would fade in comparison.

There is also a sub-storyline regarding Caroline and a recently emancipated foster-child, Lourdes (Abigail Rose). Caroline continues to help Lourdes through college and her time as an adult, through supportive meetings and catch-ups. This, although touching, seemed to be needlessly stretched out through the play. It could have been possible to shorten and/or re-write these interactions without jumping off the main plot for too long or interlinking the scenes better.

This play marks Michael Attenborough’s return to directing in the main house at Hampstead Theatre since the mid-late 1980s and it’s a piece that should interest many. With great actors and a relevant, interesting storyline, I wish this play the very successful run that it deserves.

4 stars

Review by Tomm Ingram

Hampstead Theatre presents LUNA GALE
By Rebecca Gilman
Directed by Michael Attenborough
Designed by Lucy Osborne

‘Just don’t sell yourself short or close off options because you think maybe someday something bad might possibly happen…’

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is nicknamed ‘The City of Five Seasons’ – the fifth season being the time you have in which to enjoy the other four.
However Cedar Rapids resident Caroline Cox has no time for enjoyment. During her twenty-five years as a social worker in The Department of Human Services, her life has been nothing but late nights, early mornings, challenging adolescents and tricky relations with difficult colleagues. But for all her experience and ‘gut feelings’ this next case is going to change everything, making her question all she thinks is fundamental… both professionally and personally.

Multi award-winning Rebecca Gilman’s sharply witty drama explores the power we have to change the future – irrespective of the past, and however impossible the circumstances appear to be.

Rebecca Gilman’s plays include The Glory of Living (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, The Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright and The George Devine Award), The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, Spinning Into Butter, Boy Gets Girl (Olivier nominated for Best New Play), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Crowd You’re in With, A True History of the Johnstown Flood and Dollhouse.

Michael Attenborough returns to Hampstead’s Main Stage for the first time since his period as Hampstead Theatre’s Artistic Director (1984 – 1989). He directed the Hampstead Downstairs sell-out hit Godchild starring Tracy-Ann Oberman in 2013. Recent credits as Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre include King Lear, Reasons to be Pretty and Measure for Measure.
Lighting design is by Jon Clark and sound is designed by Jon Leonard.

Luna Gale: Meet the cast in rehearsals

BOOKING INFORMATION
13th June to 18th July 2015
Mon – Sat at 7.30pm
Weds Mats at 2.30pm and Sat Mats at 3pm
Tues – Sat eves: £25 – £35
Mondays/Matinees/Previews: £18 – £28
Seniors from £15, Concessions from £14.50
Under 30s from £10 for any performance
Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, London, NW3 3EU
Tel: 020 7722 9301
Online: www.hampsteadtheatre.com

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

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