Edinburgh Fringe 2012
"Hear the sublime sounds of The Australian Voices in this uplifting story – an a cappella choral-theatre work for 20 singers including movement, costumes, lighting and projections. The moon, Diana, is lonely and wants a boyfriend. She sends out her moonbeams, looking through windows and finds a beautiful boy, Sam. But Sam is sick. This story explores the fragility of life and the strange emotions surrounding death, the sense of fear and perhaps relief. "
Moon is a very special piece of musical theatre – combining intense, tour de force choral ensemble work with visual and vocal storytelling and singing with a dash of physical theatre and movement added in.
It’s special because there is, literally nothing else like it on the Fringe, and special also because of the powerful and affecting concentration and effort of breath, body and collaboration that emerges during the hour they are on the stage.
As theatre, the themes chosen aren’t new, but they’ve been combined in a way that is bound to irritate the subjectivity of some reviewers and make them mark it down for daring to link life, death, spirit and Facebook. A boy is dying and has a unique encounter with Diana, principle of the moon. He finds resolution through this encounter which involves a departure from a life on earth that was a threshold of self-meeting through suffering. We do not die in death, but into it. We are never alone, yet are probably at our most lonely and empty when we seek a version of connection through the binary beast of the computer, instead of connection through authentic love, human to human. Human to Goddess.
Theatrically the moonlight here is born of much discordant sound – the light is blue, harsh and cold. Diana is rarely soft, gentle and seemingly never warm. And I believe this is a short-sightedness of the piece – both theatrically and esoterically. Moonlight is a gift of sunlight. And the essential quality of sunlight is life born not only of light, but also warmth. It is the essence of warmth that often heals – psychologically through conscience, and physically through a range of physiological processes. Some of the physicality of the singing is eye popping in two directions. Our eyes pop at the sometimes astounding choral work and their eyes pop as they seek to please the conductor, looking as if he owns their souls. And all the while Diana sends down those beams.
This is a production that seems to have either ignored or not seen sunlight, until perhaps at the very end, where the light encountered by our hero and the ensemble is, for once, a golden light. From a dramatic point of view, it comes too little and too late to redeem a piece that is often fabulous and breathtaking, but also cold in a way that generates more shivers than the tears I believe it should.
In parts there is beautiful synergy created out of music, lyric, image and movement and we have an ensemble as a many legged, many voiced single beast, reaching to us, and into us with story, with sensation and with ideas. In other parts the narrative feels more clumsy, sometimes lost in repetition that fails to engender flow in story and unfolding feeling. It’s a piece that, as drama, would benefit from dramaturgical input, especially during the final twenty minutes which seem to suffer from an overlong denouement only to offer up another crescendo right at the end. The ending feels almost over-engineered.
It’s a complex piece of music that has the added qualities of theatre and movement. The projections of word and image somehow feel clumsy and intrusive. That said, the choral work is outstanding and the theatre element is often a treat to watch and deeply affecting.
But I need only think of Moon, and a host of feelings, visual and aural impressions come flooding back, sending out their beams, and that has to be proof that this company has created something that runs deep, something that is enduring. And that says something for its worth as art. And that art is well worth seeing.