Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Ruby Moon, by Matt Cameron, July 30, 2003

 Ruby Moon by Matt Cameron   
Playbox Theatre  and Neonheart Theatre
 Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, July 30 to August 16, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 30

The topic of child abduction is not a comic one but Matt Cameron's cunningly written play,  Ruby Moon, manages to be successfully and sensitively grimly funny.

Aidan Fennessy's  sleek production boasts two exceptional performances from peter Houghton  and Christen O'Leary  as multiple eccentric characters who typify Cameron's style.

It is absurd and abstracted, reminiscent of some of his other plays, particularly the dark narrative of Footprints on Water. In addition to the pathos of pain and grief, it has some broad comic elements.

This bleak, fractured fairytale is about Ray (Houghton)  and Sylvie Moon, (O'Leary)  parents of Ruby, a six year old who disappeared wearing a red spotted dress while en route to Grandma's house at the end of a street.

Yes, the Red Riding Hood references are intentional. Fairytales are often violent and frightening.

 O'Leary plays Sylvie with the high-pitched peculiar tone of a woman about to snap. Sylvie pretends Ruby is alive, calling on the phone, knocking at the door or practising her piano in the next room. The grief of the parents is palpable and poignant.

Houghton, as Ray, is a man trying to hold not only himself but his wife together but glue is coming unstuck.

The pair play a daily routine of pretend and meaningless chatter after Ray comes home from work on the train. Anything to avoid the reality of Ruby's absence.

Both actors play multiple characters whoa re the couple's neighbours. The transform physically and vocally in moments with only a simple on stage costume change.

Houghton's rapid fire routine as Sid, the Clown, is a supreme moment of comic timing and caricature. His limping ex-soldier, Wizard and mad amateur astrophysicist are delightful.

O'Leary shifts from Dulcie,  the bible basher with a fake parrot, to Dawn,  the shabby baby-sitter. But her highlight is veronica Vale  a sultry chanteuse.  Her torch song is breathtaking.

Fennessy's direction is slick and pacey. Philip Lethlean's  lighting creates a landscape of moods, interiors and exteriors along with Christine Smith's cluttered flotsam set design.

Andrew McNaughton's music echoes the escalating madness of Ray and Sylvie's imaginations. Ruby Moon is a must-see in Playbox's season.

By Kate Herbert

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