Moonfleece, Rich Mix | Theatre reviews, news & interviews
Moonfleece, Rich Mix
Philip Ridley’s play explores teen fantasy and youthful emotions
What he doesn’t expect is that Sarah has come mob-handed. As well as her Asian friend Alex, she’s joined by Jez, a gay student journalist, and Nina, a feisty librarian who doesn’t let the fact that she uses a wheelchair stop her from flirting with one of Curtis’s right-wing comrades. Other characters in this ambitiously large-cast play include two squatters, Link and Zak, plus Wayne and Stacey, members of Curtis’s extended family. When Nina, who fancies herself as a bit of a spiritualist, proposes a séance, the stage is ready for a dramatic showdown.
This vivid story of one teen’s first difficult steps on the road from darkness into light is told with Ridley’s customary flair and imaginative zeal. Once again, as in his books and other plays for young people, he has plugged directly into the socket of teen world, and its electricity flows right through the 105 minutes of the play. Yes, here are all the recognizable features of the landscape: the traces of hormonal storms, the rapid shifts of mood, the fierce sense of loyalty and the passion for justice.
Moonfleece is a fabulous piece of urban myth-making, and Ridley gets his characters to explore the past and the present through a series of monologues and confidently staged set pieces, where fact and fiction blur in a delightful orgy of performance. The climax, when Zak, the street storyteller, finally unveils the truth, is a great moment of self-conscious theatre, with comedy, fantasy and deep emotional currents perfectly balanced.
It is clear that Ridley’s s achingly impassioned portrait of the two brothers, Curtis and Jason, has affinities with his own autobiographical experience of life with his own younger sibling, and the whole play is drenched not only in the light of fairytale fantasy but also shot through with the pain of loss. Death is often glimpsed in the shadows even as the characters chat about something else entirely.
Moonfleece is an expanded version of the play Ridley originally wrote for the National Theatre Connections youth theatre programme in 2004, and it benefits no end from having a youthful but fully professional cast. Smartly directed by David Mercatali, the evening has cracking performances from Sean Verey as Curtis, Krupa Pattani as Alex, Sian Robins-Grace as Nina and Beru Tessema as Zak. Particularly impressive are Reece Noi as Link and Emily Plumtree as Sarah, both of whom make their stage debuts.
Along with the recent revival of his 2005 play, Mercury Fur, and with various events planned at the Rich Mix, included the premiere of his latest film, Heartless, some parts of London are in the grip of a Ridley mini-festival. And with national and local elections on the not-too-distant horizon, Moonfleece is both a thrilling story of youthful emotions and a timely account of the way that fascism, and other forms of right-wing nationalism, are often built on the denial of sexual needs.
- Book for Moonfleece at Rich Mix, London E1 until 13 March
- Philip Ridley’s Moonfleece text on Amazon
- Details of Philip Ridley mini-season, including his new film Heartless, at Rich Mix
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