Review: Footprints on the Moon
Image: Finborough Theatre
Anne Adams - Joanie
Sally Cheng - Carol-Ann
Samantha Coughlan - Beryl
Nicholas Goh - Boone
Derek Hagen - Dunc Carr
“What’s wrong with me?
Something’s got to be awful wrong with me.
Why am I never enough for people?”
Joanie loves her home - a small town on the Canadian prairies.
But Joanie’s mum left her, her husband left her, and now her teenage daughter Carol-Ann wants to leave too ...
If only she could “freeze a bit of time”, so nothing ever changed - like the footprints on the moon.
As Joanie battles to keep Carol-Ann from leaving to go and live with her dad in Toronto, she is finally forced to confront why she keeps being abandoned by her loved ones, and the loves and losses that have shaped her life.
A finalist for Canada’s most prestigious literary award - the Governor General's Award - and winner of the Labatt Award for Best Canadian Play, Footprints on the Moon premiered in Winnipeg in 1988 and has since been produced in New York City, and all over Canada including - amongst many others - Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Saskatoon.
It now receives its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre.
Change brings many and varied benefits.
Whatever your age, you'll already have experienced it - for many of us, it happens on a daily basis, even moment-by-moment.
Over the past few decades we've seen change taking place on an unprecedented scale and it's set to accelerate in the future as technology impacts on an increasing proportion of our daily lives.
But change has always been part of living, and though it brings with it many rewards and improvements, it also brings loss too through people moving away from their home towns, seeking employment or education, getting married and dying.
This play, from Canadian writer Maureen Hunter, may take us back to the 1980s, but its salient commentary on loss and change is pretty-much as relevant as ever, even if its real-world setting has almost certainly morphed into something much different along with the rest of society.
The drama focuses on Joanie who lives in a small, almost insignificant, micro town - a mere dot of a habitation sitting somewhere on the vast, sprawling prairies of Canada.
Joanie's husband has already left her to live in the metropolitan environs of Toronto, and now her 16 year-old daughter, Carol-Ann wants to follow and live with him among the dazzling lights of the alluring, concrete prairie which is the city.
Faced with a new loss on top of that of her mother and husband, Joanie fights to keep her daughter at home.
But the battle is quickly lost when Carol-Ann takes matters into her own hands, secretly boarding the city-bound train whose taunting whistle of inevitability signals her unpreventable departure.
Lost in loss, Joanie seeks comfort with any male in the town who has the time and inclination to offer some fleeting human contact, and she becomes the focus of town gossip and the subject of graffiti in the men's toilets of the town's bar.
Footprints on the Moon plays on the borrowed set (designed by Emma Bailey) of the other production, Jam, which is also currently playing in rep at the Finborough.
You'd hardly notice that fact during the play because the scaffold-like framework provides the outline of a simple house and external veranda where most of the action takes place.
But if the set is borrowed, the rest of Anastasia Osei-Kuffour's exceptionally-crafted and riveting production most definitely bears her own, authoritative stamp.
With haunting guitar music from Lucinda Mason Brown, the production feels more like a film than a stage play, possibly because the staging configuration provides such an intimate, close-up and near-claustrophobic atmosphere for the poignant proceedings.
Leading a very fine ensemble, Anne Adams as Joanie provides a somewhat understated but totally absorbing and mesmerising portrayal of a bewildered woman struggling to cope when those she cares about are leaving and her way of living is under threat.
Maureen Hunter's powerful dialogue and story illustrate the futility of attempting to head-off change or prevent loss - for Joanie, her attempts to contain her husband even contributed to him leaving her.
It's rather surprising that this well-written, thoughtful play is only just receiving its European premiere, because its enduring themes are still provocatively exacting.
With only a handful of performances left in this run at the Finborough, it's to be hoped this compelling production gets a transfer to allow much-deserved appreciation by a wider audience.
Enthralling drama, hugely recommended.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Finborough Theatre
Our show listing for Footprints on the Moon
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