Theatreworks, St Kilda
Until 3 June
By Alex First
What is truth and what is fantasy? The lines are blurred in the dramatic play Moth, which speaks to teen angst and mental health.
Superbly executed with a minimalist darkened set and striking lighting and sound, the actors impress in their realisation of playwright Declan Greene’s work.
Fifteen-year-old Sebastian (Adam Noviello) isn’t exactly the most popular kid at school.
Obsessed with anime and death, he’s needy and troubled.
In fact, he’s deeply disturbed and is regularly bullied.
He doesn’t respond well to authority figures and is disconnected from his mother.
His only friend, Claryssa (Lucy Ansell), is an emo Wiccan art-freak, who has her own issues.
She enjoys a love/hate relationship with Sebastian – both drawn to, and repelled by, him.
After another night of drinking in the cricket nets, Sebastian believes he has had an epiphany.
When he wakes the next morning, a moth in a jar by his bed, he has a definitive mission, namely to save the souls of humanity.
He sets about tackling that with religious zeal.
But, the reality is schizophrenic delusion, which can only end in disaster … and Claryssa has abandoned him in his hour of greatest need.
This is mighty fine, evocative, interpretative theatre. One has to work through what is really going down here.
While Moth is infused with light and shade, moments of elation find their counterpoint in confrontation, anger and despair, which predominate.
From the get-go there’s a visceral combative element to what we are seeing, which informs the rest of the piece.
Noviello and Ansell are self-assured in playing a variety of characters, principally Sebastian and Claryssa.
Theirs is a winning combination.
Both give as good as they get.
They are certainly not afraid to get into each other’s faces.
I appreciated the “authenticity” I saw in the main protagonists.
Despite his “provocations”, Sebastian sees Claryssa as his safe harbour, but then that is part of his psychosis.
The lighting by Niklas Pajanti – bold, arresting, even blinding at times – is masterful, while Darrin Verhagen’s soundscape reaches into your core.
Briony Dunn has done an excellent job with her direction of Moth, which is a physically imposing, stimulating work, set in a heightened reality.
It should hold particular appeal to independent theatre buffs that like being challenged and senior school students that would do well to discuss it. It is playing at Theatre Works until 3rd June, 2023.
About the Author
Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little.
Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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