Review by Anina-Marie
Ad Astra’s latest show is a terrifyingly gripping journey through the unravelling psyches of Ray and Sylvie Moon following the disappearance of their daughter, Ruby. This decidedly absurdist play challenges audience perceptions and encourages us to question. And Ad Astra’s production certainly achieves what director Susan O’Toole-Cridland set out to do; the perfect conversation starter on a complex (and so extremely important) modern topic.
Written by Matt Cameron in 2003, Ruby Moon explores the grim mythology of the missing child in Australian folklore, one of the most prevailing fears of our times. Cameron’s Ruby Moon looks at the nature of that unease that lurks in the world that we live in. It combines elements of absurdism, gothic horror, black comedy, and fairy tales with the paranoia of post-9/11 suburbia as well as drawing inspiration from real-life headlines about missing children.
Directed by Susan O’Toole-Cridland, Ad Astra’s rendition of Ruby Moon takes a literal, realist approach to Cameron’s text. Portraying Ray and Sylvie’s slow descent into madness right in their own living room as the two actors embody the crazy characters that lurk in their once-safe suburban street. O’Toole-Cridland supported by Assistant Director Yasmin Elahi build a terrifying, eery world which draws the audience into the minds of the characters. The blocking is seamless, flowing clearly through the various sequences as the actors switch between characters in their twisted game. O’Toole-Cridland’s passion for building this terrifying world shows and it pays off in a spectacular way.
One of the absolute standout elements of this show is B’Elanna Hill’s Lighting Design. Every aspect is perfect from beginning to end. From the execution of a scene played half in darkness as a light is switched on and off to the very last image the audience is left with, an eery red wash on a rocking horse, Hill’s lighting design is flawless. Bravo!
The sound design by Theo Bourgoin mixes elements of the familiar ice cream truck theme, Greensleeves, throughout the show as well as echoes of Ruby’s giggles. Bourgoin’s sound is perfectly executed and serves to draw the audience into the characters’ hellish world.
The costumes and set designed by Kim Phillips are wonderful. Phillips’ costumes are simple yet effective, allowing the actors to change characters without ever needing to leave the stage for a costume change. The set design creates a vintage feel living room for Ray and Sylvie, filled with dolls, and a back wall decorated with eery photos of Ruby doll. At times it does feel as if the set is too cluttered but this is likely a deliberate design choice meant to represent the cluttered minds of the characters.
But all of this being said, Ad Astra’s Ruby Moon owes its ultimate success to the two brilliant performers who fearlessly explore the complex characters on stage. Gary Farmer-Trickett and Sandra Harman as Ray and Sylvie Moon are both simply stunning.
Farmer-Trickett is a formidable performer who delivers each crazy character with absolute committment. His portayal of Ray Moon feels authentic and believable; every bit the concerned, loving husband. But the real magic of Farmer-Trickett’s performance is his ability to embrace the unhinged nature of the other characters from the street; Sid Craven, Sonny Jim and Professor Ogle. From the moment he transforms into the crazy, cackling clown, you just know that this performance is going to be stellar. A particular standout is Farmer-Trickett’s portrayal of Professor Ogle; drawing peels of laughter from the audience in a show somewhat morbid, a very welcome reprieve. Farmer-Trickett aquits himself as a strong, dramatic actor throughout this production; a real show of genius. Bravo!
In the role of the frail, struggling Sylvie Moon, Sandra Harman is simply brilliant. Harman is one of Brisbane’s most excellent dramatic actors; always delivering awe-inspiring performances wherever she goes and Ruby Moon is no different. Harman’s portrayal of Sylvie’s descent into madness is terrifyingly good. Harman also portrays a slew of other characters in this production: Dulcie Doily, Veronica Vale and Dawn. Uniquely crafted, Harman’s performance draws on a wide skillset, convincingly taking on each new role. Harman particularly shines as the comedic Dulcie Doily (complete with imaginary parrot) and on the occasions where Sylvie pretends to be Ruby. Harman’s performance is executed with such skill that she frequently make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. Bravo!
All in all, Ad Astra’s Ruby Moon is an absolute must see! This production has it all: gripping content, excellent direction, aesthetically stunning lighting, sound, costumes and set and most of all, two brilliant, talented performers pouring their hearts and souls out on the stage. Do not miss this one!
Ruby Moon will play at Ad Astra in Fortitude Valley until 13 August. Tickets are still on sale here but get in quick because this amazing show is sure to sell quick.