An engaging and thought-provoking play, pagan rituals notwithstanding.
Image by Jeff Busby.
Yellow Moon, written by Scotsman David Greig for a young adult audience, depicts a coming-of-age story of two teenagers, Lee (Luke Ryan) and Leila (Naomi Rukavina). Despite different cultural backgrounds, the pair unite through adversity and attempt to escape their challenging home lives.
‘Silent Leila’ is a Muslim girl who self-harms, while Lee is dealing with an alcoholic and violent stepfather and a mother who suffers from crippling depression. The two teenagers flee north after a crime is committed and the tale of their new existence unfolds in what is ultimately a love story.
The play occupies a sparse set – just four bench seats – so it relies heavily on a carefully constructed soundtrack and narration (taken on by all four actors) to orientate the audience to time, place and character. While the almost constant narration does ground the audience, it is very literal, and sometimes it feels as if there’s no room left for personal interpretation. This approach is almost certainly designed as an aid for young audiences who may not have been exposed to theatre before, but it feels trite at times and a little pedestrian.
Young adult themes are dealt with such as self-harm, blended families and first sexual encounters. The sex scene between Lee and Leila is utterly charming and a highlight, the confusion created by exposure to porn and how to incorporate this with the real world is beautifully evoked. However, the depiction of self-harm feels uncomfortably close to glorification of the act.
The use of pagan imagery such as deer and the cutting out of hearts seems out of place and adds nothing to the story. In fact, fanciful elements such as this which occur in the second part of the play, detract from its overall effectiveness, distancing the audience by turning it from something real and raw to a rollicking yarn confused by weird symbolism. The narrative, too, in this latter part becomes intrusive and feels unnecessary, particularly now that the audience is attuned to the format of the play and requires less guidance.
The four performances by Constable, Faranacci, Rukavina and Ryan are outstanding and all are utterly convincing in their roles. The stage design and sound are appropriate and effective. The flaws lie mostly in aspects of the original script; however Greig has tackled a difficult task which was to make theatre accessible, relevant and interesting to teenagers. In this he has been largely successful. Overall, an engaging and thought-provoking play, pagan rituals notwithstanding.
Yellow Moon is set to tour regional Victorian secondary schools after its season at Southbank Theatre in Melbourne.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars
Presented by MTC Education
Written by David Greig
Cast Mark Constable, Daniela Farinacci, Naomi Rukavina, Luke Ryan
Director Leticia Caceres
Set and Costume Designer Melanie Liertz
Lighting Designer Lisa Mibus
Composer and Sound Engineer THE SWEATS
Stage Manager Jess Burns
Stage Management Secondment Tess Chappell (Monash University)
The Lawler, Southbank Theatre, Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
2 – 16 May