ATYP’s reviewing program was created to give young people a platform to voice their opinions and experiences while developing skills in critical reflection. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of ATYP or its staff.
It is a rare event in the theatre where two actors can hold a full house at Theatre Works through a multi-character and dimensional story for seventy-five minutes straight. Adam Noviello and Lucy Ansell definitely did. Moth is a memorable night at the theatre, it’s dark, puzzling, and will have you hanging around the foyer, wine in hand, fiercely analysing what you’ve just witnessed.
Adam and Lucy’s performances are painfully tender and touch on something, somewhere inside each of us who knows what it’s like to be an outcast kid in school. Labelled the ‘emo’, Claryssa (Lucy Ansell) is a Wiccan, the bait of constant bullying and criticism and best friends with Sebastian (Adam Noviello), the ‘weird kid who smells’. The two navigate their feverishly close bond whilst dealing with the pressures of fitting in socially, Sebastian and Claryssa’s dynamic is a roller-coaster ride of hormonal change. A sinister bullying incident drives a wedge between the two and sends them both into a spiral. Dressed tastefully by Costume Designer Betty Auhl, these endearing and awful teenagers are brought to life with authenticity and dramatic flare which elevates the play, captivating every bum in a seat. But, this play is certainly for lovers of the absurd. Adam and Lucy utilise their craft to take on mothers, fathers, teachers and bullies with skill but you’ll need to sit upright to follow who’s who, and when.
Something must also be said for the lighting. A field of hanging bulbs light the theatre and one gets lost in a black world with no edges. Intermittently, a bright white reflects back onto the seating bank, inviting us all to reflect on our own experience of Moth, it’s frightening and brilliant, a wonderful touch by Lighting Designer Niklas Pajanti.
One does find themself wondering about the play’s title until Sebastian is greeted by an omniscient moth in a jar who assigns him the responsibility of knowing that “the end (of the world) is nigh”. Internal alarm bells go off. The all-too-real undertone of doom for planet Earth lives underneath this play subtly, and Director Briony Dunn makes creative choices that are sensitive and direct, without making it a play about the end of the world. Perhaps I could have done with a little less yelling into the big black void, but it does have its poetic tragedy.
The show is layered and rich with metaphor and the performances have muscle. It is a night at the theatre you’ll be thinking about, less the neat tie-up of strings and a bow at the end. But as the lights go down and the audience holds their breath, listen closely for a collective exhale and whispered ‘wow’, which is exactly what we go to the theatre for, right?
Georgia, 22 [she/they]
On your seat when you arrive at Theatre Works you’ll find a letter – ‘Dear 14-year-old me’. It is written by Adam Noviello, who plays Sebastian, the unpopular and effeminate fifteen-year-old protagonist of Declan Greene’s first play Moth, returning to Melbourne after it first premiered at the Malthouse in 2010.
The letter tells their story, that of a ‘boy’ who spends their adolescence mercilessly bullied, only to build a successful career in the arts and find a life of queer joy and acceptance. You’d be forgiven for thinking this might set the tone of the following 75 minutes or expect a traditional, perhaps even sentimental, coming-of-age story. But you’d be very, very wrong. Moth provides something decidedly more sinister as teen angst rises to catastrophic – and psychotic – levels.
Sebastian is joined on stage by Claryssa (Lucy Ansell), an emo/Wiccan ‘freak’, who Sebastian teases and prods, clearly relishing having at least one other friend with whom he can share his outsider status. But their bond is tested after an evening of underage drinking is crashed by the school’s resident bully and ends in a brutal act of violence. Separated by shame and betrayal, Sebastian spirals into a state of violent and vengeful psychosis that threatens to engulf him as he searches for saintly salvation.
Noviello and Ansell shine in this demanding two-hander, expertly guided by Director Briony Nunn. Though their chemistry as friends is slower to materialise in the show’s opening moments, they well and truly come to force as performers when showcasing their impressive vocal and physical commitment transforming into a suite of supporting characters. Audience favourites include; a histrionic weeping mother, a sinister old man, and a host of overbearing school teachers. These moments are vital to maintaining the show’s humour as it ventures into increasingly confronting subject matter, and without which Moth risks alienating the younger audience to which it still hopes to appeal.
Lighting Design by Niklas Pajanti steals the show, enveloping the cavernous Theatre Works space with enchanting and atmospheric light. I found myself staring up at the high ceilings on more than one occasion, completely mesmerised by the rays. With the stage left deliberately sparse, entirely black with only a pair of small blocks moved by the performers, the lighting is only further given room to shine (yes, a pun). It truly is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and alone is well worth the price of admission.
It’s only shortcoming; sometimes Moth feels so stylised (in text as much as direction and design) that we can’t quite feel its beating story heart. It’s a shame, because what a heart it is.
Emmanuelle, 22 [she/they]
Moth plays at Theatre Works until the 3rd of June. Buy tickets here.