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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Bush Theatre Summer 2013

While the Bush Theatre’s Disgraced plays to sold-out audiences in the main theatre downstairs, their more intimate attic venue hosts a strange beast of a show.

A transfer from the High Tide Festival in Suffolk, Moth is the tale of two outcast schoolchildren, Sebastian and Claryssa. He is loathed by his peers because, with the abject cruelty of teenagers, they think he smells; she is a defensive, aggressive ‘emo’, swathed in black and full of directionless loathing.

 Outcasts together, Sebastian and Claryssa's friendship feels very real, thanks to strong performances from Jordan Mifsud and Stacey Gregg.

The two of them play every character in the show, with their performances well-defined enough to make it clear that this is a depiction of, for instance, Sebastian’s lonely single-mother being made by Claryssa, not Gregg. This means that the other characters not only expand the world of the play, but add depth to its central relationship, which is an interesting idea.

 Declan Greene’s writing in these early scenes feels sparky and real, and there is a lovely chemistry between the two actors – Sebastian and Claryssa are horrible to each other, but they love each other, and as a portrayal of an uncomfortable, tentative teenage friendship, Moth absolutely succeeds.

 Unfortunately, about halfway through, things take a turn for the bizarre when Sebastian has a vision of a destroying angel, a kind of manga-influenced, robotic Saint Sebastian.

Apparently done with suffering, this Saint Sebastian is here to destroy, and our Sebastian has been chosen to bring his message to the masses: the end is nigh.

 As it becomes a story about a psychotic breakdown instead of just two lonely young people, Moth's latter half manages to feel clichéd and yet somehow, at the same time, ring false.

Sebastian’s descent happens so fast, and grows from – what, being young and disliked? Being really into Japanese animation? Plenty of teenagers are all of of these things and Sebastian’s descent into a madness over-suffused with religious imagery feels like a poorly-achieved version of something that audiences have already seen done before.

 Mifsud and Gregg are likeable, real and well-directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah, who keeps the various characters clearly defined and the exchanges quick.

There is also some excellent lighting design from Jack Knowles, complimenting the sparse set and the intimate, in-the-round staging.

Unfortunately, Greene’s play, though promising and showcasing a good ear for realistic dialogue, falters just too heavily towards the end to make Moth anything other than a slight disappointment.

Lauren Mooney

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Review -   Moth - Bush Theatre 2013

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