Writer: Daniel Kanaber
Director: Adam Quayle
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
Box of Tricks are undertaking inspiring and wonderful work. Sharing playwrights and their new writing with audiences around the country. They move forward with the times; asking what’s been talked about right now and how can that creatively manifest itself on the stage? Manchester is just the start when it comes to places they want to reach out to.
Under Three Moons is a 70-minute play, split into three acts presenting three very different nights. The story follows Mike and Paul, who became two unlikely friends as a result of been paired together by chance through alphabetical ordering in class. We first meet them on a school expedition in Dijon, France; then a surfing jaunt in Pembrokeshire, Wales; and finally at a family Christmas get together.
Mike and Paul chat about whatever they like but it’s the conversations they disconcertingly choose to swerve around and put off which are the most important. It’s a two-hander exploring how men talk, express their feelings, and open up to one another. Examining society’s perceptions on masculinity, this is a theatrical response to the epidemic around men’s mental health and suicide. It asks: what affects you as a teenager, a man, and a father?
Kyle Rowe (Mike) and Darren Kuppan (Paul) have a comfortable and natural connection on stage. With the help of Kanaber’s writing, their characterisations are on the mark. Both characters are polar opposites of one another, well certainly in the first act, but as they grow up they end up sharing each other’s personality traits. That doesn’t mean they end up completely changing who they are, Rowe and Kuppan maintain the authenticity of their characters. Opposites attract in this case: angel and devil, gentleman and lad, serious and silly, anxious and chilled, or geeky and dumb. The laddish playfulness and dossing around is affectionate and humourous.
The central visual theme aiming to fuse everything together is the moon and stars, as evident in Katie Scott’s three-piece set design and hinted at in the play’s title. Stars may symbolise a significant changing point in someone’s life but also may be an indication of sorrow. While the moon is emblematic of passing time and cycles. It’s a beautifully simple design. However, while the previous does make sense in relation to the play, the text never makes explicit reference to these visual metaphors. So, at the moment it feels like the visual and text elements aren’t as integrated and connected as they could be. Leaving some uncertainty around the production.
Saying that, Chris James’ sound and Chris Hope’s music are more successful production elements. The sound design is realistic and makes you believe you are there, meanwhile the sparkling music sounds like it’s been played on wine glasses. The melodies sound sweet, fragile, and pure.
In summary: Kanaber’s writing captures the authenticity of the characters and men’s dialogue, in conjunction with the humorous and naturalistic acting. Even if there was an air of uncertainty orbiting around it.
Continues on UK Tour | Image: Alex Meads