Yellow Moon | Black Swan State Theatre CompanyLeft - Adriane Daff and Tim Solly. Cover - Austin Castiglione, Adriane Daff and Tim Solly. Photos - Gary Marsh

David Greig’s
Yellow Moon is an odd play, told primarily in third person. Four performers take on multiple characters plus narrator roles throughout the performance, often switching between them straight away and talking about themselves in the third person. It is an ingenious twist to the normal ‘conversationalist’ drama and the 2010 Hotbed Ensemble (Austin Castiglione, Adriane Daff, Melanie Munt, and Tim Solly) excel in this production.

Two teenagers, cocky “Stag” Lee and Silent Leila, (who’s obsessed with celebrities and never speaks), end up as an unlikely pair on the run together when someone is killed. They travel to the Scottish Highlands to find Lee’s Dad, and end up finding the drunk and cantankerous Frank, caretaker of a lodge. There they stay and work during winter until the first guests arrive.

At its heart, Yellow Moon is a moving story of teenage love despite the odds, as well as exploring family relationships and society’s obsession with celebrities. The play is loosely based on American legend “Stagger Lee”, but playwright Greig has transposed it to his native Scotland. In this Hotbed Ensemble production, the performers retain their Australian accents, yet keep the English and Scottish references in, as well as the “black American” and country Western music. It gave it a curious no name no place (or all time/all place) feel, which was quite appropriate.

The four member cast worked well as a cohesive whole. Adriane Daff outshone the others as Leila, portraying so much emotion and feeling through facial expressions and small, deliberate movements. Melanie Munt had the majority of the narrating in the later half, but depicted a rich, bored celebrity with ease. As Lee, Tim Solly had some of the most emotional scenes, and his interpretation of a young, messed up teenager was spot on.

The stand out was Austin Castiglione in the role of Frank. He perfectly captured the gruff, continuously (perilously) drunk look, walk and talk and managed to age 20 years as he segued from his first character (Billy) into Frank.

The multi level set covered in dry pine needles/hay by Fiona Bruce was an interesting mix of the abstract spirit of the play and the realistic nature of the Scottish Highlands. Minimal props (a few stools, the mantle of a fire place and two playground rocking horses) ensured that the focus was primarily on the performers.

The lighting (Tess Reuvers) was over the top and unnecessary in many places, and too unsubtle in its changes (although this may have been due to operator fault). The moving images (designed by Mia Holton), projected onto a scrunched cyclorama, weren’t necessary and kept distracting me. Peter Dawson’s sound design was more subtle, and added ambience to the moody scenes.

Director Adam Mitchell does well to keep the cast and audience on track, as the performers slip between character/narrator, talk in the third person, and think out loud. It is a text heavy play, and at times, this production lacks the visual excitement to keep the motivation going. The majority of action faces forward (ie conversations with both people facing towards the audience) became frustrating at times, although the one key scene where Leila and Lee faced each other was an emotional powerhouse of a moment!

Yellow Moon is not a play that you will “enjoy” as such. It will draw you into its world, intrigue you and interest you, make you think and make you question. All the things a good play should do.

Black Swan State Theatre Company and The HotBed Ensemble present:
Yellow Moon: The Ballad of Leila and Lee
by David Greig

Director Adam Mitchell

Venue: Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA)
Season: 6 – 22 August 2010
Tickets: Standard $29.50 / Concession $21.50 / Preview $21.50 / Students $17.50
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing (08) 9484 1133 | | PICA 9228 6300

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