Man in the Moon

Producer: Brassneck Theatre Company
Director: Tony Devlin
Writer: Pearse Elliott
Cast: Ciaran Nolan
Running time: two hours 10 minutes, including interval
Bozar, Brussels (March 27), then Lyric Theatre, Belfast, April 20-24

A trawl through an old school year book and the realisation of how many contemporaries had ended their own lives underlined for writer Pearse Elliott the truth that suicide is so prevalent it has acquired the force of the inevitable.

In response, he set about converting the issue into a play that explores all the wasted potential by combining moments of silent heart-break with frantic stand-up comedy, and rapid fire powerful crack with powerful despair.

Only a certain kind of actor would have a hope of delivering with authenticity the harsh West Belfast reality of the message, as Elliott’s programme note observes.

Ciaran Nolan, directed by Tony Devlin, turns himself into Sean Doran, a cheeky chancer, dragged up on a West Belfast estate, and draws us deeper and deeper into a plot that is essentially just a shopping list of pranks, scrapes and tragedies. In a production that on the surface is shamelessly blatant, he subtly stokes suspense and sustains our interest for two intense hours with only a wine bottle and a park bench for props.

In Brussels, a sympathetic audience at a performance sponsored by the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive, laughed uproariously at every joke, even those worthy of a groan.

The richest of the comedy, which builds to the play’s emotional centre, is the story of a leather jacket that gets Doran and his brother into a Brad Pitt celebrity night.

It could make the political point that it costs the haves very little to share their glory with the have-nots, but that is only peripherally the message of this play. In any case, it’s not just the socially excluded who decide to end it all, though again Man in the Moon doesn’t deal with the deeper, psychological whys beneath the facts of failed relationships, failed jobs and failed bets.

After the laughter fades, it could add up to not very much, but for the master-stroke of a life-affirming, final line.

Barbara Lewis © 2015.

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