Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Man On The Moon

Keisha Thompson
STUN and Contact
Contact Theatre, Manchester
21 November 2017 to 25 November 2017

Keisha (sole performer Keisha Thompson who also wrote the play) finds her father to be something of an enigma. She knows that his mother was abusive but does that explain why he concealed that he was a Muslim until he was actually in Church at his daughter’s Christening? For years the only way in which her estranged father communicated with Keisha was by way of books which he pushed through her letterbox. But she hasn’t heard from him for five months and has begun to fear that her father might be ill rather than eccentric. Keisha sets out on a quest to trace and understand her dad and her journey compels her to consider the impact that the deteriorating mental health of one person can have upon other family members.

Man On The Moon is not so much a monologue as a lyrically expressed piece of storytelling. Although there is no poetic rhythm in Thompson’s speech patterns her descriptions are evocative and moving. Thompson describes her father as being like an ‘unread book’ which perfectly captures the sense of someone who has not been thoroughly explored or understood.  In a short section she recalls how her schooldays deteriorated from innocent enthusiasm where questions flew from her like paper darts to the point where being ignored by prejudiced teachers made her feel so unwelcome she did not wish to return.  

Communication and the ability to understand other people are themes in Man On The Moon  and Director Benji Reid helps the audience share Keisha’s viewpoint by puling them  into the character's mind . Reid uses Jim Bond’s wonderfully ramshackle set– it looks like my front room with piles of books stacked untidily- to create the sense of Keisha’s journey. Thompson wanders around the stage chatting to the audience and sorting her books into neat piles and rows which then become the aisles of supermarkets through which she wanders. The final sequence, in which a rocket ship appears (no, really) seems like dream come true until Keisha has to confront the reality of sharing someone else’s confused beliefs.

Man On The Moon is varied but never feels crowded or confused.  Thompson changing from a monologue to singing against a backing of looped sounds is achieved with a natural, casual grace and her singing voice is lovely. Thompson is unashamedly parochial charming the audience by sharing tales of the hassles encountered travelling on the number 192 bus service and name dropping local streets and venues. Thompson shares the audience’s enthusiasm for her tale giggling merrily when she reveals a sign that turns a pile of books into a bus stop.

There is, however, gravity to the story as Thompson recalls her baffled hurt feelings when her father warned her away from ‘whoredom’. There is the possibility that Keisha is afraid that she shares her father’s tendency towards zealotry . It seems odd that someone who had a passion for the discipline of mathematics and who studied to be a teacher would find comfort in a belief system like numerology.   

Although thought-provoking  Man On The Moon is never ponderous and the warm , natural approach taken by Keisha Thompson leaves you feeling like you have been chatting with a friend rather than watching a play.

Reviewer: David Cunningham