Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Hand Me Down the Moon

In 25 Eustace Street in Temple Bar, time doesn't so much stand still as loops up on to itself. Every twenty minutes, one of three versions of Bella - and this is no passive, pining, angsting vampire-lover, make no mistake - half-narrate, half-act out vignettes from a life gone past. Bella longs for a childhood, but one that is not just hers; instead, she recalls the enthusiastic toddler years of humanity, when we were taking those first few tentative steps outside our cradle, before apparently abandoning the adventure as too risky.

This performance is an example of what is known as immersive theatre: the (tiny, maximum five members) audience are present within the performance, rather than seated outside it. This is particularly evident in the first part, when, first seated at a dining room table, the audience are, from there, urged to rush in to the living room to watch the first moon landing, "live". As the audience and the actors mix at Bella's father's moon party, it is difficult to tell who is here to perform and who is here to watch/experience. The excitement in front of the period TV set is palpable: put away your out-of-character knowledge and you may just experience a glimmer of the wonder the contemps felt on seeing Armstrong and Aldrin emerge on another world. Unfortunately, the mixing of audience and actors is not repeated, and for the rest of the performance the audience quite firmly remain spectators, aside from small gestures from the other two Bellas.

Bella's story is based on the life of Bairbre Ni Chaoimh, who really did live in a house on Malin Head, and whose father worked as a radio operator. The other writer, Aideen Barry, is a visual artist, and her influence is seen in the several animations that take place during the performance. This is seriously mixed media. Not only do we have the live performance, but also animations, short films, countless details carefully placed around the house. In a way, this performance is not only about stepping into a play, but also stepping into a work of visual art. It is a pity, therefore, that the out-of-character transitions from one part to another mostly interrupt the flow of the play and that the ending is quite abrupt. The audience are torn away from the experience with a brusque "Time to leave now!" without a chance to express their appreciation in any way.

Some of the reviews of this performance have been quite lukewarm. I wonder if you need at least a drop of nerdhood in your veins to truly appreciate it. I see this performance as a love song to space and to girls and women who hold "non-feminine" interests. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in space and/or manned spaceflight. For any woman with an interest in them, or for anyone with a daughter with an interest in such things, I call this essential viewing.

As part of Absolut Fringe, Hand Me Down the Moon continues in 25 Eustace Street until 24 September. Performances at 20 minute intervals from 6 pm to 9 pm. Tickets at 15 euro (students 13 euro) available from the Absolut Fringe website, Filmbase Office, or the venue, if you feel like chancing it.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it's just right for a Fringe play.