It starts as a stereotypical, uninspirational story of a prostitute meeting a married man late at night in a hotel room. But don’t judge a book by its cover – Moonlight After Midnight is actually an innovative, well-crafted tale that forces you to question your perception of what is reality and what is performance. From sexual roleplay, we move into love at first sight, just married and finally estranged spouses attempting to rekindle the romance.

This is Inception on stage, a script by Martin Dockery that effortlessly entwines overlapping narratives with such natural precision that it becomes impossible to demarcate them. Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelle have a chemistry born of performing extensively together, with intimate knowledge of each other such that they can interrupt lines, play with the delivery and even cut through the text without it feeling stilted.

The true beauty of Moonlight After Midnight is the questions it raises by being so intentionally hazy around the edges. The fourth wall remains, but its entire makeup is thrown into doubt. What is performance, if not the interpretation of reality on stage? What happens when we can no longer distinguish acting from truth, when we can’t tell whether Quesnelle has finished her part or is still immersed in her role? Yet, despite all of these questions rolling throughout the show, we are filled with a sense of intrigue to follow the action and see where it leads – a true reflection of the capability of both actors to maintain audience focus with what could easily be a confusing structure.

When taking each interaction in isolation, Moonlight After Midnight is filled with intimate detail that comprehensively paints a picture of the scenario without the need for extensive qualification. Quesnelle rings in the changes with a cappella vocals, husky and soft and tinged with a forlorn timeless quality. Dockery’s script itself cleverly mimics micro-formatting within each of the “scenes” (if they can be described as such). Fleeting moments invoke the vague sense of déjà vu, which is both justified and different enough not to be concrete. As the story progresses, these minute specks are further substantiated, but to question their validity is to ruin the intended ambiguity. It’s a mastery of cloak and dagger in narrative form.

In many ways, this translucent repetition is what Dockery can hang the looseness of the structure upon. It’s much easier for the audience to be swept along in the cycle as the overall concept doesn’t feel under-developed or too vague to follow. “I don’t know how this is supposed to end”. Quesnelle announces, exasperated as a wife that is unable to enjoy her wedding night. We share the sentiment.

Moonlight After Midnight is itself defined by the act of watching the performance. We make it unreal, a piece of theatre that we ultimately walk away from. Without this assurance, it would be easy to get swept up in the spiralling current of faux reality, or unreality as equally may be. The end cycles back to the very first moments with an unnoticeable reversing of roles – Quesnelle enters the room, but Dockery walks out.

 

★★★★☆

Moonlight After Midnight plays Assembly George Square, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 28 August 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.