Studio – The Vaults
Reviewed – 1st March 2020
“The science in Luna may be attention getting, but it’s too detail heavy”
Toby Hulse’s new play Luna: A Play About the Moon (which he also directs) is aimed at a young audience of outer space enthusiasts. And one certainly couldn’t ask for a more detailed examination of all things lunar in this production by Roustabout Theatre in the Studio at the Vaults. Luna even includes a reenactment of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission that succeeded in putting men on the moon. Add in some useful information about astronauts—even one female cosmonaut—and what’s not to love? Yet Luna is not so much a play, as a series of entertaining sketches.
What are the strengths of this show? Especially enjoyable are the two charming and versatile actors, Jean Goubert and Shaelee Rooke, who take on a solar system of roles both historical and mythical, human and non-human, and even a planet (Terry) and its satellite (Luna). The audience is introduced to Luna and Terry’s troubled relationship in which both parties struggle with an irresistible attraction to each other even though they’d like to break away. (That’s gravity for you.) There are the scenes in which a policeman is trapped in a room with various lunatics who are on the verge of transformation under the full moon’s light. (The Moon gets a bad rap for this, even though we are assured that Luna doesn’t really have that kind of power). There are disastrous first dates where science nerds never seem to attract the right partner, or a New Age jewellery saleswoman who can never quite make that first sale of “genuine” moon rock necklaces. In an attempt to portray the Moon in a better light (sorry) we are treated to a recitation of Verlaine’s Clair de Lune in French. Each vignette is either funny or charming – although the transformation of a human into a very believable werewolf was a little too much for one small boy who had to seek refuge in his mother’s lap. Added together, though, Hulse’s play reveals itself to be a hit and miss mash up of science, history and mythology, despite the strong performing skills of the actors, and eye catching design of Bronia Housman.
The science in Luna may be attention getting, but it’s too detail heavy, and is aimed at audiences a little older than the primary school set. Nevertheless, it takes more than good science to make a compelling drama. As every parent and teacher knows, if you can hook an audience of kids with one good story and strong leading characters, they’ll enthusiastically go and find out all the other information for themselves.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer