Philip Ridley’s new play Moonfleece, isn’t so much new but rather updated. First shown as a Connection play for young people at the National Theatre, Ridley has since worked the text and brought a new life to his East London play set in derelict council block.
Moonfleece is a play bursting with ideas, metaphors and themes that are current for a society in which we are readily facing. Dealing with fascism, murder, race, equality, sexuality – you’d think that a play so full of messages that somewhere the dramatic action would get lost. This is hardly the case. Ridley has woven this tale of deception and brotherhood with characters that come across as amazingly real.
What fascinated me about this production is the sheer number of characters who are present. An 11 strong cast – who are all new young professionals – manage to both dominate the small space of the Rich Mix studio, but still allow for the action and dialogue to interject between them without hesitation. I can’t remember the last time I saw a cast so fluid in their lines and delivery. Nor can I remember seeing a show for a long time with such a strong young ensemble that isn’t a musical.
Moonfleece covers multiple issues within the confides of Ridley’s story. It doesn’t aim to solve any of the prejudices which is raised, but certainly raises a creative frown at for example the steady increased popularity of the BNP in recent years. Ridley creates a family who see’s the local community as an all white society, spreading their fascists views in their same tailored suits and ties, with their all white slogans.
Cleverly Ridley ties the main story of a dead brother who actually turns out to have been banished from ‘the kingdom’ by the ‘step-father’ due to his sexuality with issues of acceptance of sexual orientation in societies and culture. Ridley’s message isn’t forced on the audience, but subtly revealed across two hours of the show.
There are few things to criticise about this production. The stage design is effective by William Reynolds, and whilst the sound at times slightly distracts from the action, the howling of the dogs repeated throughout create a tense atmosphere. Ridley’s text allows for a sense of humour to be evoked from some of the characters, which allows for space within this heavily loaded script.
Conclusion: A cast who are young, but there is no denying that whilst none of them stood out as leading characters nor driving the piece, together they worked brilliantly in delivering this gripping text. Covering issues that are relevant in todays society it brings a fresh approach to dealing with these issues, and is perfect for it’s current venue in the heart of East London.
Recommended for young people as well as adults. David Marcatlai direction of the piece is commendable allowing for the action to be fast paced, engaging and before we know it, 2 hours are up and the play is done. Considering Moonfleece has no interval it certainly has the ability to grab us and not let go until it is finished – something so few productions can achieve.
Moonfleece is currently showing at Rich Mix before it goes an on extensive national tour. To view dates see the official Moonfleece website here.