Rooted in a major era of historical instability and change, Moon, by Dave Porter, captures an alternative perspective on the struggle against Communism and the growing capacity of the USSR in the space race during the Cold War. Following the experience of three professors at Oxford University, the play questions their ability to define their own goals in life, and to fulfill the positions which, despite their substantial academic success, they may never fully accomplish.
Being Dave Porter’s first written play at the Nottingham New Theatre and with only a few weeks of rehearsals running up to the performance, there were areas that may have benefited from a little more time. I found the second act a little harder to follow than the first; connections between events were less easily distinguishable, leading to confusion between what was real and what was false. Being a play with a momentous climax at the end, it could have ended on a more dramatic note if the concluding events had been slightly more condensed. It is, however, far too easy for me sitting comfortably in the audience to criticize a play which has been skillfully written in many aspects, and excellently performed.
My one main criticism is therefore linked to the clarity with which events in the second act were exposed; but as for the writing itself, Dave Porter’s understanding of his characters was striking. Each character had categorical, yet believable personalities, and each showed sensitivities drawing the audience into their struggles. It is set in a recognizable historical time, defined by NASA’s mission to overtake the Soviet Union in the Space Race. To add to the sense of rootedness in reality, the play astutely captures the tension and competition between committed academics; shown through the comedy of Ernie (James Pardon) taking issue with the positioning of decimal points in his published work, and through his qualification of Toby’s (Dan O’Connor) claim to have two names.
This humour, expressed in the script by Dave Porter, is brought alive by the actors, whose performances both in monologues and in their interaction with others on the stage, showed an understanding of their character’s attitudes through subtleties in conveying humour, anger and passion. The play was performed in a lecture theatre; apt for the University context in which the events occur, and highly effective in connecting with the audience during the monologues delivered by Toby, Ernie and Dr Faulkner (Tom Sheldon).
Overall, I enjoyed this student-written play. The story was insightful, the scripted depiction of characters highly convincing and the talent of the actors engaging. Only a shorter, more succinct portrayal of events in the second act would have improved the play, but even considering that, I am honestly impressed with what should be the first of many more to come!