‘Fly Me to the Moon’ follows Francis and Loretta, two community care workers who find their elderly charge dead in his bathroom. When they realise they can gain from his death, they delve into morally grey areas.
The show is staged as part of ‘A Play, A Pie and A Pint’ at the Traverse Theatre, a performance series which stages a different play each week. A ticket comes with a free pie and drink (there’s a big drinks selection, including coffee and juice). As such, the setup is intended to be more casual. However, it seems the performers took this too much to heart and didn’t focus on delivering high quality acting.
The key issues which the play discusses are the lived experiences of the elderly and care workers in the UK. Marie Jones’ script is darkly comedic and toes the line between being agreeably morbid and unfunnily gory. Its descriptions of the man’s body and disturbing smells are visceral enough to keep the audience aware of the play’s social issues but without them feeling too sad to laugh. These contrasting atmospheres highlight how people can often be happy and doing exciting things against a backdrop of other people’s suffering, and suggest we examine when that might occur in our own lives.
Unfortunately, neither the performers nor the director (Sarah McCardie) seem to know who their target audience is. Sandra McNeeley and Julie Austin play Francis and Loretta. Their performances are often condescendingly obvious. When they talk about how the old man was living all alone in his flat with only them for company, they look into the audience with intensely stern and expectant eyes. It felt like we were back in school watching a community education play.
Their movements are sometimes in pantomime, physically big but done with low energy so they take on a defeated and almost desperate feel. It seems like they don’t trust the audience to appreciate the subject matter, so they force it upon them. Yet at other times the plot is very complicated, with a web of clues and decisions. It can be quite hard to follow and seems appropriate for a niche detective thriller fan group.
This said, there are some positive aspects to the show. The essences of the characters’ portrayals are very believable. McNeeley and Austin effectively convey the characters’ racing thoughts as they debate why they should make different decisions. They play off each other very well. It’s like are magnetised on stage – they are always physically reacting to each other. This suggests that each of them has a mental force which has a relationship with the other’s. This raises questions about who has the power, whether they have mental fortitude, and what constitutes a ‘powerful’ thought. The plot suggests that there’s such a lot of chaos that you can never know what the impact of a thought or action will be until it happens.
On a technical level, the design is confusing. The set is in garish orange, the colour of which detracts from the emotion of the play in its farcical joy, but the awful colour adds to the sense of the old man’s uncomfortable environment.
Overall, the play was interesting, but the production team don’t seem to know how to approach the text.