Review - Ruby Moon: absurd, mythical realism, and Australian Gothic
By Lilian Harrington
By Matt Cameron
Directed by Susan O’Toole- Cridland
Ad Astra Theatre
57 Misterton St.
Production dates: 21 July – 13 August
Bookings: Try booking;
Australian contemporary writer, Matt Cameron, explores the repercussions of loss, grief, guilt, anger and suspicion, through the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Moon, distraught parents, who lost their young 6 year old daughter when she disappeared from her home in a quiet safe suburban cul de sac, on her way to see her grandmother who lived close by.
Cameron shows how this loss of a child provides a catalyst for major behavioral changes; he shows how the fears and paranoia held by the devastated parents have long term effect on their health and relationship. Cameron has written a play that is a combination of the absurd, mythical realism, and Australian Gothic; and viewers observe how this cold case has affected the lives of Sylvie and Ray Moon, young Ruby’s “middle-aged” parents as presented on stage at Ad Astra.
This two- hander is confidently performed by experienced local actors Sandra Harman and Gary Farmer-Trickett, Sylvie and Ray Moon , who take on various quirky, yet challenging character roles, as they carry out interviews with “other residents” in their street, who they believe may have some knowledge of Ruby’s disappearance.
In an earlier production of Ruby Moon Trickett had a more corporate appearance which was more compatible with Harman, but in this production, Director O’Toole, while attending to detail, has set the scene in a more sedate and traditional living room, but given Ray Moon (Trickett), a more unkempt look, which in turn creates a deeper contrast between the ages of the two characters. Sylvie, (Ruby’s mother), is kept sedated by Ray, so she always appears to be in a somewhat disorientated state, while the grieving Ray, who craves a return to normality, spends his time either secretly traveling on the trains, at his mother’s place, or visiting the woman at Number 12.
In this production O’Toole has created a faster paced action, which is sharper and more decisive, so it results in a greater expectation and tension on stage, encouraging viewer interest. The domestic scenes in Ruby Moon, are compounded and made more effective in this theatre’s boutique setting; complimented by lighting designer B’Elanna Hill, which at times leaves actors in the dark, but uses special effects e.g. the symbolic rocking horse, along with Kim Phillips ‘s set design, and photography from Christopher Sharman, to complete the atmosphere. O’Toole sees the production as “a conversation that needs to happen”, so she leaves us with questions to be asked ; “Was there really a Ruby Moon ? Or is Ruby a figment of a sick Sylvie’s imagination?” Throughout the play she has challenged her actors to explore new boundaries.
Questions are raised as we watch the family’s repeated everyday routines, or hear the unseen “wizard” at the door, dropping off boxes with parts of Ruby’s broken doll, (a symbolic gesture) ; we meet and wonder at the residents in the street who appear weird or eccentric. We learn that Ruby’s parents are perceived as unusual by others, and we learn a little about Ruby. She carried some secrets from her parents. It leaves us questioning what reality is.
This production is a modern take on a theme that needs to be heard .It flowed well and it had energy and a dynamism that held audience interest. The detail given in Ruby Moon is effective, but it leaves an audience with some questions; it is a production not to be missed and it will lead to some post play discussion!