OK – long story short. UK theatre duo Ridiculusmus are conducting a play reading of Goodbye Princess, their new work-in-progress (hopefully for London’s National Theatre), at this year’s upcoming Melbourne Fringe Festival. And…..I’ve been allocated the part of ‘Blogger 1’ because Ridiculusmus found out that I was a blogger! Blogger 1 is based on a British theatre blogger called Chris Goode, so as part of my intense acting preparations using the Stanislavski method, I thought I might try to write my next few theatre posts in the style and tone of Chris Goode.
Honestly, I tried, but I found it too hard! Method acting is more difficult than it seems, kids. So I’ve written this post in my usual style, but sent a message off to Chris Goode in the hope that he might deign to rewrite it again in his own voice.
One Night the Moon is a theatrical adaptation (directed by Wesley Enoch) of the 2001 film of the same name starring singer/songwriter Paul Kelly. It’s a simple story – a young girl goes missing in the outback in 1932 after stepping out her bedroom window one night. The police suggest aboriginal tracker Albert may be able to help find her, but the father forbids the black man from stepping on his land. After three days of fruitless searching, the girl’s mother goes to Albert and he eventually finds the girl dead, her foot wedged in a rock and her fingers clawed with mud.
The start of the show was beautifully atmospheric, with the on-stage musicians suggesting the broad stillness of an outback night, the rustle of eucalyptus leaves and the gentle piping of fading birdsong. A woman came onto the stage with a firestick and conducted what looked like a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony, before torching a faded black and white picture of an outback landscape that looked like it had been drawn in a bushman’s notebook. This mystical and dramatic opening led to my favourite part of the play, as shadowed silhouettes symbolised the child’s sleeping innocence and then the actual act of her climbing out her bedroom window to reach for the moon.
Unfortunately the spell was broken as soon as the characters started singing. I really enjoyed the beautiful melodies and different stylistic influences in the music, but I found the lyrics trite and self-consciously poetic. There was minimal dialogue between the one-dimensional characters, so I was never convinced or emotionally drawn by the parents’ relationship, Albert’s relationship with his wife (Ursula Yovich with the beautiful voice) or the hostile bigotry of the white farmer. Plus I found Mark Seymour (of Hunters and Collectors fame) most disconcerting, as he sung all of his songs with an American country twang. All this meant that bizarrely I was completely unmoved by the tragic storyline, even when the mother was keening in anguish like the pieta and the father shot himself because it was the only way he could express his pain. In fact I found my mind wandering quite a bit during what were effectively a series of sung monologues, with my attention only drawn back when the set was used as the background for some evocative sand drawings.
I attended the first preview show for the season, so by the time it opens next Wednesday it may look and feel quite different to my experience. Still, the highly effective set design, imaginative use of various theatrical elements and live background music were so beautiful that it outweighed the play’s incongruencies and falseness in tone. So , One Night the Moon is HOT – with conditions.