It really isn’t going to be for everyone but I adored THE MOORS. The black humour grabbed my jaded funny bone and wrestled in into a very odd shape. Plus, weirdly, my typhus must have been acting up because I could hardly breathe in places. It is a deliciously detailed production which, despite being non-sequitur free, is alarmingly disorienting and it’s ferociously feminist and with some remarkably troubling hits over the head with a Bronte. And an easy to follow narrative … go figure.
It begins with a nunnunnunnah. And from there on Nate Edmondson’s audio design leaves no clichéd audio cue unreferenced. It takes the horrible from horror with a score which interlaces plunks and a distant pipe strike and swirls of strings and a contrapuntal discordancy in places. It never overwhelms and even has a bell motif that rings distant from a hillock through the fog!
Nothing about this production goes too far… or not far enough. Kate Gaul‘s direction has taken a truly exciting script by Jen Silverman and pulled these characters, begging and pleading to be made normal, off the page. But rather than drop them into any period or style to suit us, the viewer, they have been normalised within a transmogrifying circularity of place which pulls them up just the right amount of archily short of grotesque. That was what my friend didn’t respond to and what I found riotous. What the hell is she knitting btw?
Romy Bartz as Agatha is imperious, ponderous, sexy as hell and torturously, psychotically open-eyed and the, initially, perplexed and eager to please Emilie (Brielle Flynn) is entirely manageable until she finds steel and the indignation to stalk successfully out of a room. Their walk on the moors is some of the best stagecraft delightfully woven into undercurrent ridden acting that you could wish for. Thrilling to watch.
Enya Daly as Agatha’s sister Hudley is absolutely knowable. How Daly manages to give this child/woman a growth arc is mysteriously clever. There is a winning exuberance peeking through a massively confusing juxtaposition of behaviours and she skilfully telegraphs each thought so I was laughing before she verbalised it. And her interactions with the inconstancies of Marjory, played with an hilarious grossness of physicality by Diana Popovska are sublimely, darkly comic. Lank and loose, Popovska not so much shapeshifts as dares you not to believe.
Alex Francis’ Moor Hen is a gum tree crow if ever an accent ruled the stage and considering the silliness, how she and Thomas Campbell, as the “big, awful dog”, create such intimacy and pathos is an empathetic splendour. Campbell brings ideas above the Mastiff’s nature in a brilliant character study of a dozen kinds of maleness and Francis takes the ditzy out of feather-brained.
The set revolves, the chair and the table is constantly upset and the costuming is replete with character, applique and embroidery and subtle lifts of texture to change in the light. And there’s Mallory’s shiny shirt and an occasional heaving bosom and some makeup to watch out for … eyebrows and eyelashes. The lighting works a treat and only a queer eye turns up the lux and lumens when a love scene is in the offing.
All in all, THE MOORS is “very vivid and upsetting” and every time they talked about the surprising occupant of the attic I thought I would go full crazy wife! My friend enjoyed it but wasn’t as taken by the mist and mastery as I was and, in a way, that was the best bit, the deep discussion after. Don’t deny yourself anything and have the man bring around the trap so you can get to the box office without delay.