Sarah Beaton’s stage is barren and stark, a beautifully grey surface that Ben Jacobs’ lighting design tenderly colours with its warming glow. Before In Event Of Moone Disaster begins, the atmosphere is peacefully quiet – dust clouds and smoke eddies dance through the air and Richard Hammarton’s subtle sound design seeps into your subconsciousness. Lisa Spirling’s direction sets up layered themes around a lack of life, an infertile and hostile environment that is simultaneously a serene oasis from the pressures of Earth. Andrew Thompson’s script hasn’t even begun, but already we are starting to understand the complexity in this production. It’s a masterclass in artistic direction.
From this introductory framework, we expect In Event Of Moone Disaster to be a strong show and it doesn’t disappoint. Thompson’s story spans three generations and 85 years, following the journey of grandmother to father to daughter and their interconnected relationships with travel, exploration and fertility. The tale involves the swinging 60s and Sylvia Moone (Rosie Wyatt), desperate to escape yet tied down by both an unwanted pregnancy and by doting companion Dennis (Thomas Pickles); 2017 and son Neil (Will Norris), desperate for a chance to be the father figure he was deprived of in childhood; finally, to 2055 and daughter Sylvia (Wyatt), hellbent on escaping her life on Earth to travel to Mars in the name of progress. But despite touching on otherworldly themes, Thompson’s work is not a fantastical tale – every character is grounded and earthed, relatable by all of their intricacies and flaws. Beaton’s design suddenly becomes crystal clear, an intentional blank canvas that transcends time periods to reflect the similarity inherent in the generations, all linked by genetics despite each wanting to escape and be individual.
If this wasn’t a complex enough story already, Thompson effortlessly weaves in themes of fertility and womanhood – from unwanted pregnancy to impossible pregnancy to the ability to turn off nature entirely. He touches on controversial political issues around independence and border control; gives a feminist nod towards the right for a woman to own her sexual promiscuity without being pre-judged. He even adds a sociological aspect, probing the idea of capitalist-sponsored space travel and its influence on our economic behaviours – astronaut Sylvia (Wyatt) stands in front of Philippine Laureau’s expertly crafted video projection and answers questions from the public about her impending space voyage. Under the captaincy of Spirling, cast and creative team alike realise Thompson’s ideas with poetic precision and convey a plethora of textures without breaking a sweat.
As Spirling starts to blur the boundaries between time periods, the actors are forced to flit between characters and motivations at the drop of a hat. They do so expertly, none more so than central character Sylvia. Wyatt plays grandmother and granddaughter with core similarities but distinct behaviours – strong and plucky, a spirit that stubbornly refuses to be tamed. In one moment she is emotionally charged and free, the next devoid of external feeling and transactional in her encounters. Wyatt expertly plays two sides of a single entity with ease, galvanising the story by intrinsically linking all characters through their heritage. They may want to branch out, but there is no escaping the bloodline.
The remaining cast add colour and depth in equal measure. Neil (Norris) is headstrong and stubborn yet tender – a man who simply wants to have a family surrounding him and to feel like he belongs. On the flipside, hapless lover Dennis (Pickles) is a bumbling soul, dedicated to Sylvia despite her attempts to push him away. Pickles conveys the simplicity of this character with tact, a performance that shows Dennis to be a stable anchor in a world that everyone else is desperate to avoid. The encounter between Neil and Dennis is particularly poignant, a series of beautiful moments that are effortlessly ripped away in a harsh, alien environment.
There are so many levels of detail and subtlety in this production that it merits multiple viewings. In Event Of Moone Disaster tastefully places escapism at its core – the desire to run from problems, or to run towards new adventures. The grass is always greener, a reflection of our generation’s constant need for new stimulation. But there is something to be said in sitting back and being grateful for your lot; if only the Moone family would realise this, rather than chase the next discovery beyond the horizon. Thompson’s script is an entanglement of narrative threads that unravel at the perfect pace, Spirling’s direction the ideal partner to convey the multitude of concepts in an emotionally revealing production.
Follow the link to an interview with producer, Jake Orr.