Review: Moonfleece

4 star rating
Though the final sequence feels contrived, the opening proves irresistibly funny in spite of the serious nature of the issues, and a skilled ensemble provide compelling performances.
Moonfleece at Pleasance - Islington

Image: Pleasance - Islington



Closes here: Sunday 15 April 2018

Author:
Philip Ridley

Director:
Max Harrison

Cast:

Link: Rocio Rodriguez-Inniss

Tommy: Josh Horrocks

Gavin: Josh Dolphin

Curtis: James Downie

Alex: Seyan Sarvan

Jez: Joseph Aldous

Nina: Adeline Waby

Sarah: Lily Smith

Zak: Jaz Hutchins

Wayne: Ben Woodhall

Stacey: Nat Johnson


Synopsis


'You don't live life as a story. You live it as life. The story comes after.'


An abandoned home.


A lost brother.


A secret love.


Curtis has arranged a meeting in a flat of a derelict tower block.


As a child, Curtis lived happily here, but then tragedy struck and his elder brother died.


Now, Curtis is seeing his brother's ghost. With the aid of Gavin and Tommy, fellow members of the far right political party of which he is a leading figure, Curtis aims to find out why this ghost is haunting him. Things, however, do not go as planned.


Two squatters now occupy the flat, and one of them has a story to tell - a story that will change Curtis's life forever.


Moonfleece is an intense, thrilling, and humorous exploration of modern Britain.


Its representation of the far right, racism, homophobia, and authority have become even more charged in the seven years after it premiered.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Wednesday 28 March 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

There's a feast of Philip Ridley writing on offer right now in London.


Well, that is if 2 plays qualify as sufficient for potential gorging.


Anyway, Mr Ridley's Vincent River is currently playing at the Park Theatre (you can read our 5-star review of that here).


And then there's this production of Moonfleece, a play which received its professional premiere back in 2010, written as part of a much larger body of work, The Storyteller Sequence, designed for young people.


Director Max Harrison doesn't have an easy job here, on two counts.


First, he has a relatively small space to work within.


And second, he has a large cast to co-ordinate, and one of them in a wheelchair to boot.


However, that doesn't seem to have daunted Mr Harrison in the slightest and those constraints quickly fade into irrelevance.


The first few minutes of this production are, at least to my mind, the best.


There are some rare moments when watching a play when the urge to collapse into fits of uncontrollable laughter is overwhelming.


And I experienced the onset of that in the opening scene here.


That's in spite of the fact that what we're watching involves some nasty characters with insidious views and intolerable political notions.


But it's often in the most poignant or sometimes terrifying times when comedy and drama collide, often of necessity.


Moonfleece takes place in a block of council flats which is largely deserted and seems to be slated for demolition.


All the action takes place in one flat which is occupied by two squatters, one of whom is out when a series of callers arrive.

Moonfleece at the Pleasance Theatre

Joshua Dolphin (Gavin, left) & James Downie (Curtis) - photo by Gregory Birks


First to fetch up are two men dressed in matching attire - red ties, white shirts and smart, light grey suits - which appears to be a uniform of sorts.


They belong to a kind of pseudo political party with extreme, right wing and nationalist views.


Now here's where the fun starts ... one of these men called Gavin is little more than a rabid rottweiler on two legs, complete with shaved head, and intent on violent acts.


The humour emanates from Gavin's incompetence as well as his overblown reactions to comments about him.


Once other people start to arrive, further conflict is set in motion between the participants who include a local journalist and a woman who claims to be a medium.


But from thereon-in, the pace and the overall tone of the play radically alters as the real purpose of the assembly becomes clear.


And that gear change is something of a shock to the system as we have to wade through some considerable exposition and delivery of background details which don't always seem completely necessary.


And a final storytelling sequence never felt entirely convincing, more like a contrived package in which to wrap the denouement, which nonetheless carries chilling and unnerving messages.


Josh Dolphin's perfectly played and very funny Gavin steals the initial stages of the piece.


It proves hard not to feel a tinge of sadness for Gavin when he declares that "The party is everything to me", even if he is a violent head-case who, some might say, may benefit from a frontal lobotomy (if he hasn't already had one).


James Downie also ably impresses as Curtis, the tortured young man who is seeking answers to his brother's mysterious demise.


There are, though, plenty of interesting and energetic performances here, all tightly and effectively orchestrated by Max Harrison, who injects the more violent moments with ample and credible realism.


In spite of my reservations about the final stages, Moonfleece is worth seeing just for the first 10 or 15 minutes alone with an opening that proves irresistibly funny in spite of the extremely serious nature of the issues it raises.



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