Tuesday 23 May 2023

Moth review

In Declan Greene's Moth, two teens narrate a chain of events that lead to a tragic outcome for a pair of high school outcasts that leaves one unconscious and one missing without explanation. It's a fast-paced two-hander that highlights themes around mental health and identity through the friendship of these two people and the shared - and individual - experiences they go through growing up together.

Admittedly, I had some trepidation of whether a play written in 2010 about two teenagers would be relevant in 2023 but fortunately Moth still feels fresh and innovative. Greene depicts the horrors of high school and the long-term impact these instances can have, through authentic teenage voices and one can only imagine the power of this work back when it was performed.

Adam Noviello carries much of the story and they are able to confidently navigate the emotional complexities of playing Sebastian, the most unpopular boy in their school. Noviello captures Sebastian's downward spiral and the confusion and anxieties he feels as everything slowly begins to unravel. Lucy Ansell is charming and captivating as Claryssa, the Wiccan freak of the school. Her portrayals of minor characters, including Sebastian's mother, his schoolteacher and a Year 7 student, are bold and exaggerated for laughs but still grounded in truth.

Briony Dunn supports an ambitious story through masterful direction that guides the actors to play with who these people are and not just with their voices but their movement and body language. The incorporation of the technical aspects in Moth further aids this exploration of the unknown and heightens the stakes for the characters.

The lighting design by Niklas Pajanti creates an abyss-like environment and perfectly presents the challenges that these two people are facing. Similarly, the sound design by Darrin Verhagen brilliantly expresses the ambience, mood and tone of the story, adding depth to what the two are going through, and subsequently having that sit inside the audience.

Moth is an impressive play with exceptional casting in Noviello and Ansell and memorable design elements. While at times the writing and the structure of the narrative can be an obstacle in keeping up with what’s happening, it remains an absorbing play that draws its audience in, and doesn't let go until the lights go down.

As a sidenote, it’s fantastic that Theatre Works are programming Australian plays that have previously received critical acclaim, but with limited productions. It is rare that Australian works are given a new life and for new audiences to experience these, so hopefully this is something Theatre Works will continue to champion and remind us of these important stories.

Show Details

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St. Kilda

Season: until 3 June | Tues - Fri 11:00am and 7:30pm, Sat 7:30pm
Duration: 75 minutes

Tickets: $50 Full | $42 Concession | 20 for $20
Theatre Works

Image credit: Daniel Rabin

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