Under Three Moons – The Studio, The Lowry
Director: Adam Quayle
Writer: Daniel Kanaber
Theatre company Box of Tricks have earned quite the reputation for putting on productions with a heartbeat and, more importantly, a soul. Real stories about real people, which seem to tap into our conscience. New Production from writer Daniel Kanaber Under Three Moons certainly falls in to this category, bravely tackling mental health in men and the inability talk openly this subject.
This two-hander is set across three nights that are some 20 plus years apart. It tells the story of Michael (Kyle Rowe) and Paul (Darren Kuppan). We first encounter them on a school trip to France. The teenage boys are far from friends and are seemingly polar opposites. However they soon get chatting to each other and find they have more in common than they think; family troubles, Michael’s mum is ill whilst Paul’s parents are having marital problems. However, the pair also have hopes and dreams for the future. The pair soon bond and so begins a friendship that will span decades.
The second takes place on a beach in Pembrokeshire, the boys now men. Michael is at university, whilst Paul is in-between jobs, the woes of the world are seemingly taking their toll on each other. What is abundantly clear is that both men are struggling, but neither will let their guard down to the other and express what they really think, yet they still have their aspirations.
The final night takes place at Michaels’ house over Christmas: Paul has rather unexpectedly visited his friend. It has been four years since they last saw each other and life has not be to kind to either man, and their friendship seems to be fractured: will this relationship survive the night, let alone carry on into the next decade?
This is a smart, honest account of the male psyche, told at times with warmth and affection, but more importantly highlighting the barriers and the failure to deal with situations, and the impact this can have on mental health and our relationships.
Kanaber’s script is witty and warm without being over sentimental, however, where the production’s main strength lies in its ‘show don’t tell’ approach to storytelling. Much like Michael and Paul themselves, more is left unsaid, leaving aspects of the play open to interpretation. It’s refreshing to have a production that leaves you to come to your own conclusions and certainly one that will spark conversation and debate – which can only be a good thing.
Both Rowe and Kuppan, are excellent in their roles, both giving multi-layered and nuanced performances. As the boys become men and later step into fatherhood, you see both Rowe and Kuppan throw in little subtleties, which makes the transformation all the more believable.
The production lives and dies on your belief in their relationship, you fully invest in their friendship which is down to the strength of the two’s performances and the superb direction of Adam Quayle. The production is helped by it’s simple aesthetic, a simple raised wooden disc is where all the action takes place, but the sound and lighting design at times give a fairy tale feel to proceedings.
This is a rich, engaging contemporary production with a strong message about one of the big issues of our times, done with great thought and consideration, and well catching.
Under Three Moons is on at the Lowry until the 28th September and then on a nationwide tour throughout the autumn.