Sydney Review – A challenging Ruby Moon
Pash Julian takes on four roles in Ruby Moon, here he portrays the core role of Ray Moon. Photo by Jacob Strong.
By Matt Cameron
Directed by Johann Walraven
Season: 12 – 23 August.
Ruby Moon, a play well known for its unsettling subject matter and contemporary whodunit framework is currently being staged by Samsonite Productions at the Factory Theatre, directed by Johann Walraven.
Rippled with mystery, audiences are drawn into a chilling story whereby Mr and Mrs Moon struggle to find closure regarding the disappearance of their daughter. Matt Cameron’s script sets the challenge for two actors to portray eight roles throughout the story, an ambitious undertaking for any actor and creative team. In Samsonite Productions’ work, we see glimpses of impressive work, but don’t feel like we quite get the chance to sink our teeth into the characters presented.
The play’s focal point is the disappearance of little Ruby Moon, the aftermath of this tragedy and Mr and Mrs Moon’s investigation into the fragments of evidence that may explain the events.
The couple engage in a nightly ritual of laying out everything they know about their daughter’s disappearance, wishing for some kind of epiphany that will bring her back. One day, they are greeted with a parcel on their doorstep that contains a doll’s limb, a doll that belonged to Ruby.
Interpreting this as a sign of hope to gain answers, the couple embark on an investigative journey, interrogating their neighbours in the cul-de-sac about what they have done, seen and heard. This rigmarole unveils the eccentric characters in their world, and reveals more about the condition of Mr and Mrs Moon.
It must be said that it is a vast challenge for two actors to take on eight roles. I tip my hat to Samantha Lee and Pash Julian who took on the challenge. However the range of roles seemed to place heavy pressure on the actors, and the roles did not feel sufficiently developed.
This was a shame as there were points that ignited curiosity and idiosyncrasies of characters that caused great laughter and enjoyment for the audience. I wanted to see strong chemistry between Ray and Sylvie Moon, Ruby’s parents, in a compelling manner. Chemistry that followed them as they worked through grief, love, and frustration, sometimes united as parents and at others, detached and distant as anguish and mental instability threatened their relationship. There are many colliding and conflicting dynamics in this relationship that the audience had glimpses of, and yet this seemed to me to be an area largely untapped.
Both Lee and Julian achieved comic moments in their portrayals of various characters, which is a success considering the eerie subject matter of the play.
Engaging use of lighting shone at various points in the play, utilising lamps scattered around the stage to create shifting atmospheres. Spotlights were also employed to direct audience attention to features on stage, such as the striking image of the mannequin of a young girl, dressed in a red dress.
This overbearing physical symbol of the missing Ruby stands as a talisman of the hope held out for her return, albeit somewhat lifeless hope just like the mannequin.
Mr and Mrs Moon’s refusal to come to terms with the loss or harm of their daughter is devastating, and the lighting design and use of props reflected this. Effective costume changes were executed swiftly to assist the actors with a seamless physical transformation into a new role.
Ruby Moon teeters between boundaries of the real and the imagined, and pushes the boundaries of its actors to explore their range emotionally and in characterisations.
Lee and Julian work hard in their performance, exerting great energy to present an engaging and diverse work. The challenge may have proved a little ambitious, but their effort is not ignored. The piece stands to speak for the woe experienced by family members of missing people and the extents they will go to for closure, even if this means resorting to vivid escapism.