‘Ruby Moon’ was harrowing.
How do you deal with something unimaginable? Could your family survive something indescribable? That’s the question Ad Astra dives into with its latest production, ‘Ruby Moon’.
Matt Cameron’s jolting piece revolves around an Australian fictional town, Flaming Tree Grove. A couple live every parent’s nightmare when their daughter, Ruby Moon, disappears on her way to her grandma’s house. The parents try to comprehend the past and begin to investigate the odd characters living on their street. They yearn to know if anything can help put their mangled minds at ease.
The set design by Kim Phillips captivated the appreciative audience. On the surface it appeared to be a calming space, one you’d find in any older home, but when you looked closer you could tell something was off. From the impressive, stilted illustrations on the wallpaper, the disturbance of the toy box, the unnerving pictures in different sized frames, to the uniform mahogany furnishings – everything made the audience invested in finding more in the set.
Phillips’ magnificent costume design also fit with the set, particularly the use of the colours green and red. These were expertly applied throughout the production and kept the audience looking for more of the colours throughout. A nice touch.
Sound design by Theo Bourgoin layered the show. At the beginning, The Cranberries lulled the audience into a false sense of comfort. The distant sound of ominous thunder and rain throughout allowed the audience to feel the distance between the characters. The instrumental cover of ‘Mad World’ gave the audience a sense of worry.
Lighting design by B’Elanna Hill set an uneasy tone, with a deliberate use of spots and soft flashes for thunder helping to create a feeling of discomfort. The use of colours magnified the intensity of the situation.
Direction by Susan O’Toole-Cridland brought much strength to the piece. Her blocking kept audiences engaged by using certain furniture and props to create a haunting effect when one of the major plot twists unfolds. The pacing and beats made the audience feel unsettled and entranced, which is an impressive task with a two-hander. The shocking comedy added levity to the situation, which contrasted with the tension of the moving rocking horse. O’Toole-Cridland’s use of gothic themes, physical comedy and seamless transitions between scenes lifted the story. This was felt most by the audience with the bleak, harsh reality of the ending.
Sandra Harman and Gary Farmer-Trickett both explored a deep, dark rabbit hole that no one should ever experience (or could fully understand). Yet, they both gave outstanding performances.
Harman’s powerful portrait of the multitude of characters added an array of emotions from the audience. Harman’s manic take on a worried mother left the audience wanting to help her, while her comedic dominance allowed the audience moments to breathe. Harman’s use of tone, facial expressions, and jolting body language left audiences uneased, but unable to look away.
Farmer-Trickett delivered a layered performance of a father in a desperate dance of wanting his pain to end. Though there was much comedic genius in his performance, Farmer Trickett’s dark, serious moments kept the audience on edge.
The chemistry between the performers was electric. It felt as if a wall was taken away from the home of a couple struggling to survive in an awful layer of guilt, with the audience voyeuristically observing their uncontrollable situation.
These are the kind of shows that theatres should venture towards. It left the audience feeling helpless, but more importantly, it made them talk. It shined a light on guilt and mental health unapologetically, as only theatre can do. As a result of that, people asked questions about the twists, they gave their opinion and related it to their own experience. Theatre is a reflection on life, and sometimes it’s ugly. With this production, Ad Astra has masterfully brought a weighted piece to the stage. We strongly recommend catching Ad Astra’s production of ‘Ruby Moon’.
‘Ruby Moon’ will be performed until August 13th at Ad Astra. For more information, visit Ad Astra’s website.