Beast on the Moon
Reviewed – 31st January 2019
“The script builds a rhythmic, repetitive quality that creates the tension and danger”
Condensing a great calamity can only really have one of two outcomes; the work can trivialise that time in history and make it smaller, or it can personalise it, making it somehow bigger. Beast on the Moon, written by Richard Kalinoski and directed by Jelena Budimir achieves the latter and, in its first time in London for twenty years, animates the tragedy and consequences of the Armenian Genocide through the striking lives of three deep characters.
The story follows the life of Aram (George Jovanovic) and Seta (Zarima McDermott) Tomasian who begin as a couple married through a mail-order bride service; Seta escaping an orphanage at just fifteen and Aram trying to begin living out what he believes is his ideal and duty-bound domestic lifestyle. Despite both being survivors of the same genocide and their shared culture, each clash together through the tumult of immigration and childlessness. As they grow into their relationship, a different type of orphan, Vincent (Hayward B Morse), enters between the couple and exposes the repressed grief that haunts Aram and encloses Seta.
The three actors step carefully through what is undeniably a complex and slow script; each of the three takes their time with careful characterisation both within and across each scene as the characters grow up and grow together. The script builds a rhythmic, repetitive quality that creates the tension and danger between the present married couple and emanating from their individual pasts.
All three actors give tremendously thoughtful and committed performances throughout the evening as they skillfully incorporate the shifts in age and innocence the characters undergo. McDermott, in particular, grows Seta from a traumatised and stunted girl lost in a new country into a capable woman who, whilst performing a traditional female role of emotional foil to her male counterpart, delivers personal strength and resilience.
The Finborough Theatre plays host to this production with its usual intimacy; a bare set and a tense audio overlay help build scenes out of pregnant silences into climactic releases. Aram’s photography streams into a production that forces the audience to think about what drives someone to record the present as they try to overwrite their past.
No play about an almost recent genocide is an easy ride. Beast on the Moon is challenging both with its subject matter, but also through the relationships on stage, which don’t give way to hyper-modern sensibilities on gender and age. A profound and well-articulated play that speaks to the power of meaningful individual stories told with commitment and bravery.
Reviewed by William Nash
Photography by Scott Rylander
Beast on the Moon
Finborough Theatre until 23rd February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: