Saturday, 9 February 2002

Moon Babies, Feb 21, 2002

By Patrick van der Werf 
 at La Mama until March 3, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert, Feb 21, 2002

Actor, Don Bridges, gives a compelling performance in this production of Moon Babies by Patrick van der Werf and directed by Peta Hanrahan.

He plays a peculiar old derelict, looking spookily like Old Steptoe, who wanders into an abandoned shack inhabited by two odd young brothers. (Tom Davies OK, Cameron McKenzie). 

Bridges is totally believable, controlled and sympathetic. He handles with great aplomb the abstract and the poetic language as well as the Australianised dialogue.

His physical presence is magnetic. He is crippled, wizened and scruffy, limping and crawling on his skinny tinder-like legs.

The old man is hunting for his long-lost brother. He reminisces about him, about his own time in hospital and about sex. He drools over his little pleasures: a square of grubby chocolate, a cup of golden tea and a jam sandwich.

Van der Werf writes some interesting material in this script. The narrative stalls about twenty minutes in when it starts to repeat itself and not advance the relationships, the plot nor the violence that sits so close to the surface.

Of the three characters, the old man is the most fully realised. The two young men, Grub  (Davies) and Tic  (McKenzie) are less satisfactory.

Grub is the older and wields power over the simpleton, Tic. Both speak in bastardised Australianisms. Grub locks his brother in a cupboard, shout and terrorises both him and the old man with a stick.

Which brings me to the major flaw in this production. Davies shouts the entire time, mistaking stridency for passion.

His performance is on one note for most of the 75 minutes and McKenzie seems to be trying to meet him on the decibels. It is so unpleasant my guest and I had to block our ears.

Davies appears to have little vocal or physical control of his performance. At one point he smashed his stick repeatedly and a large chunk flew at the heads of the audience. This is unacceptable.

The lighting design by Rebecca Etchell  is effective and the distressed  walls of the set by Hanrahan are evocative.

Bridges' work makes this piece worth the visit. With some greater control by the other two actors, it could be a good short work.

By Kate Herbert

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