Ill Met by Moonlight
Hijinx Theatre, UK Tour
Reviewer Debra Hall for remotegoat.com
This is an example of where quality writing has provided a solid foundation for this excellent show, together with the support of grants and donations and the help of a dedicated people working behind the scenes that have provided the building blocks necessary to present a currently touring production of great worth. The company, Hijinx has taken some excellent decisions and been insightful; this clearly demonstrated in stage management and set design of the highest class, and lastly, and by no means least, the sourcing of a cast of four impressive and versatile actors.
I am going to devote this review largely to the work of the play's writer, Charles Way, because I love it when writers take the bare bones of an original theme or character and create a completely new piece of writing from it. A noteworthy idea, on Way's part, to introduce us to the character, Gwarwyn a Throt (Michael Wagg) - who happens to be a descendant of Puck from Shakespeare's A Mid Summer Night's Dream. And detectable too, that Way has mimicked the theme of 'Dream' in the fact that enchantments mess with the mind and love interests of the characters, which results in much misunderstanding and confusion, and, subsequently,this allows much scope for comedy to befall. And all goes a long way to ensure that the eventual conclusion satisfies and that the outcome had been willed and hoped for by each and every member of the audience right from the commencement of the play's opening scene.
The cast introduce themselves as storytellers, and this production is simply a truly, lovely, fairy story. One of mystique and legend centred on ancient rural customs and culture, and the rigour of season led labour and celebrations. The kind of traditional story that the generations have grown up knowing, and have passed on; where adversity has been overcome despite the influence of dark and mysterious forces and strange occurrences. Unfortunately, new versions that do a good job in representing this kind of familiar narrative are few and far between these days. This rendition however, is successful and significant in encapsulating that secret ingredient and so will have wide appeal.
Way also includes many comedic lines about the attitudes of people who settle in border territories. This touring company has performed and is due to perform in communities across England and Wales and many one liners will make one chuckle over the inverted snobbery and indignations of folk, whichever side of the Herefordshire border they happen to be seated and enjoying the show.
A couple of negatives, albeit very minor, but I found myself to be at times pre-occupied with the hair dos of the two actresses. Perhaps it would be a good idea to lose those heavy fringes with a hair pin or two? Also, the black nylon tights! Some attention to authenticity required. And a couple of songs with nursery rhyme connections took me back, in my mind, to the kind of affected performance of children's TV presenters of Playschool back in the 70s - not good.