Ruby Moon has gone missing, and in the worst way possible. She simply vanished without a trace on the way to visit her grandmother. With no leads in the investigation, Ruby’s parents Sylvia and Ray are in limbo, stuck between their previous life with Ruby and facing the reality of living without her.
So they play games instead; they play at ‘life’, going to work, coming home and pretending that everything is normal. They also revisit the events of Ruby’s disappearance; dressing up as the various residents of their street to re-hunt for clues, hoping that behind closed doors, someone knows what happened to their daughter.
And someone must know because they are sending Sylvia and Ray pieces of Ruby’s doll, nestled in brown paper boxes...
Presented by Always Working Artists and Deckchair Theatre, this WA premier of Matt Cameron’s Ruby Moon is a thoughtful but ultimately underwhelming exploration of grief and suburban paranoia.
The main area where the show didn’t live for me was, unfortunately, Sylvia (Kate Rice) and Ray (Benj D’Addario). I’m not sure whether this was Cameron’s script or Jeremy Rice’s direction, but quite simply, there was nothing appealing about them as characters. I can understand the pain, fear and paranoia of their frankly horrific situation, but on-stage it translated into a kind of zombie-like passivity. It seemed they were witnesses in their own execution, rather than creators of their own reality, searching for a solution.
This became especially apparent when Rice and D’Addario moved into other characters; playing the motley assortment of neighbours on Flaming Tree Grove, where Ruby was last seen alive. D’Addario showed great expression, creativity and life in his odd collection of characters, from a deranged clown and wounded soldier to inventor of the Road-Runner style movable black hole. Rice was excellent as the creepy, parrot-owning religious zealot and adulterous lounge singer. I especially liked her slightly weird and wonderful Dawn; ex-babysitter to Ruby, and doll-aficionado. These characters were far more interesting dramatically, and dominated the narrative when interacting with the grieving couple. By comparison, the Moon’s appeared positively wraith-like.
What also didn’t help was the lack of dramatic tension in the performances. Moments of tension, anger and despair seemed to come out of nowhere, and then fizz away equally quickly. The narrative didn’t build, and I didn’t get any feeling of tension as the couple travelled further down the rabbit-hole of their despair. Even the last gut-wrenching 2 minutes of the show, in which I should’ve felt sucker-punched, seemed to be rushed, and over before it even began…
Where I did get some meaning was in the design of Ruby Moon. Fiona Bruce’s simple but evocative set design easily conveyed the sense of suburban drowning experienced by Sylvia and Ray. The sheer height of the red curtained backdrop swamped the actors, and attributed to the feeling and depth of the despair apparently overwhelming the couple. Joe Lui and Joseph Mercurio supported this feeling with their exceptional sound and lighting work. Jeremy Rice utilised all these design elements brilliantly, especially in his use of space, but I don’t think it should’ve been to the detriment of the performances.
I really, really wanted to love this show. And some people around me did. But unfortunately, I walked away under whelmed and feeling that the show itself is stuck in a sort of limbo; between awesome ideas and concepts, and at times, not-so-brilliant execution. It wasn’t alive for me, but it certainly wasn’t dead either.
Always Working Artists present
by Matt Cameron
Venue: Deckchair Theatre | Victoria Hall, 179 High St Fremantle WA
Dates/Times: 19 – 30 October, Tue – Sat, 8pm
Matinees: Wed 27 at11am and Sat 30 at 2pm
Tickets: $30 / $20 conc. Previews and groups: $15
Bookings: www.deckchairtheatre.com.au | 1300 314 151 (charges apply)