Man In The Moon:A Review by Billy Joe
Suicide isn’t an easy subject to tackle at any time and one that playwrights might tend to shy away from. Pearse Elliott obviously felt strongly enough about the impact suicide has had on society here—particularly in his native West Belfast –to pen Man In The Moon. In dealing with the issues Elliott has written a sharp—at times manic-comedy that while making us roar with laughter can also stop us dead in our tracks when confronted with the reality of the matter.
The teaming of Elliott and star of this one man show—the wonderful Ciaran Nolan—is nothing new. Previously they collaborated for television with Pulling Moves and on stage with The Christening—and here they have teamed up with Tony Devlin and Brassneck to produce a very deserving piece of theatre. Nolan is currently getting plenty of exposure on stage and quite rightly so—he is a rising star with a penchant for comedy. Elliott needs no introduction and is the master of West Belfast vernacular and idiom. Bravely he treats a serious subject with dark humour and works to great effect. Throughout the two hour play we are treated to a series of set pieces and vignettes relating to those friends of Sean Dolan’s—Nolan—who have shared his life—and died—many by their own hand.
Half Moon Lake is an oasis of sorts set improbably in Lenadoon and the playground of Sean Doran and his childhood friends—and two brothers. We first meet Sean coming back to the lake now in adulthood to reminisce and recall those halcyon days shortly after a break up with his girlfriend—who takes their baby girl with her—and in the wake of losing his job which was trying to find a sponsor for one eyed and one armed Ugandan war child!! Over the next couple of hours Sean tries to make sense of his life to date—to find the reasons why so many of his former friends and relatives have succumbed to “the monster”.
At times the play is hilarious—at others very moving, loaded with pathos, but is always thoughtful. During any Pearse Elliott play you will be guaranteed laughs—or as Sean Doran would put it—All Day Long—and here he doesn’t disappoint. Whether it is the appearance of Sean at the “wrong wake”—his feeble attempt at internet dating or the escapade around the sale of 200 pallets laughs aren’t difficult to find. And on a personal note, the title is a great excuse to have REM’s Man On The Moon as part of a great soundtrack. I believe Elliott has struck gold in using comedy as the vehicle to carry the serious subject matter and Nolan was an inspired choice as Sean Doran. He expertly plays the nonchalant, jack-the-lad type but also has the ability to show himself as a caring and thoughtful survivor. Ultimately, in the glow of the Half Moon Lake, this is what the play is really about—survival.
Man in the Moon finishes its run in the Grand Opera House this Saturday before going on a run to different theatres throughout Northern Ireland during the rest of October. Catch it if you can.