The narrative takes place in a (apparently) North American fictitious town called Moonville. Our main character, Charlie Flenderson (Aitcheson) and his mother, Sheriff Flenderson (Anna Barker) are returning to Moonville after Charlie’s father unfortunately and comically died. But there are strange happenings in the town, namely the untimely and perplexing death of Unnamed Murder Victim Number One (also Aitcheson) and the disappearance of Sam Clydesdale (Kelly). The forty-minute run time has everything you could want – mystery, jokes, unrequited love, jealous partners, distant parents, dead parents, missing siblings, and a werewolf running loose. What’s not to like?
We start with some calibrations for the microphones, but doubles as a way to warm the audience up. Our narrator (Teag MacKay) asks us to give them our biggest applause, gasp, and “aww” in turn. If you didn’t feel good before, you do now. Here we go!
In television or film, there is a tool to start with something micro and then widen out. Often this is done with camera movement, like a close up on an eye, or a gloved hand, and then moving out, but also narratively to encompass the character and then the world they inhabit. This works because it’s a clear visual tool. The Night of the Silver Moon team try to use this by opening on a snail, voiced by MacKay, who’s off home to see his snail wife and his snail family, only to be crushed underfoot by the vicious Sam Clydesdale. As an audio piece, I don’t think this works. Because I knew nothing of the show, as it starts, I’m trying to work out what kind of world this is. We’re in a forest, so is it a world where creatures can talk and interact with the other characters of the show? No. Also, does this mean MacKay will also voice other characters? No. This is an opening bit played for laughs, which lands, but it confuses and disorientates me. I’m listening out to see if we ever go that micro again in the show and we don’t. Ultimately, apart from introducing Sam as a potentially cruel character, it doesn’t really add anything to the show. Other quippier dialogue introduces characters and the tone of the show more effectively. And who hasn’t accidentally stood on a snail? A moment of silence, please, for all the snails we didn’t mean to kill.
Another thing that disorientates me is the accents. The American accents are over the top and inconsistent. This is, again, quite funny but the inconsistency across actors and even within the same character made me question where we were supposed to be: America? New Zealand? Somewhere else? There were even some references to some sort of consumable, which the narrator then gives the North American term for, which I found, again, disorientating. With an audio show, the audience is willing to buy whatever the performers put in front of us because half of the show is the viewer’s own imagination, but for us to pick up what they’re putting down, it must be clear. I don’t have a strong feeling either way as to where the show should be set, but wherever it is, a self-referential line to explain this would absolutely be within the world of the show and would give clarity to the audience.
As the viewer’s own imagination is half of this show, sound is crucial (wow, for an audio show, who would’ve thought?!). The sound design by Jaramillo is excellent, on par with RNZ, back when RNZ had an actual drama department. And George Caves who operates the show is quick on the mark to fire all the correct sounds at the correct moment, making the show feel super slick, and leaving me in awe of their fast fingers – some of those cues were very tight. Potentially too tight, as I did feel I miss and confuse some of the backstory at the beginning of the show but then I quickly grasp onto what the heck I’m listening to. The only thing that slows the show is the actors laughing at their own performance or jokes hitting them in a fresh way with a live audience. This isn’t a bad thing – I love to see performers having fun and laughing at themselves. It feels like a sleepover where they’re all hyped up on carbonated drinks and lollies. Truly, a great time.
Something I want to call to even though I’m not sure how I feel about it is a self-referential line between Betty Clydesdale and Vicky Adams, who are in a queer relationship. They are having a lovers tiff when Betty Clydesdale says something along the lines of: wow, for two women written by four men, there’s a lot of emotional depth to our relationship, huh? This inherits laughs from the audience, including myself, although a flicker of discontent flutters over my eyebrows. So, the team acknowledge men (three of the four being queer) have written queer women characters. Sure. But then what? What was the point in examining their own relationship like that? It is kind of nice to have queer characters in something without it being a big deal. Then my mind races to why the couple of the narrative are the characters who have this emotional depth? Admittedly, the emotional depth is rather silly, as encompassing with the rest of the show, but let’s take it as what the show defines as emotional depth. I would have thought any relationships with Charlie would have been the most rife for this depth. Between Charlie and his career-driven mother (who doesn’t even get a first name?), perhaps, or between Charlie and his boyhood friend Felipe, who seems to want to pick up exactly where they left off and not acknowledge perhaps the ways in which they have both changed. As I said, I’m not sure how I feel about this line, but I am disappointed by the fact that two women-presenting characters carry the emotional labour, so far, in the narrative. Perhaps all of this will be explored in subsequent episodes, I just hope the emotional depth is shared amongst the other characters, so it doesn’t become cliché.
A fun visual element the team incorporates is the use of a prop or costume piece to differentiate between characters for the audience as all three of the four actors on stage play two characters. Sam Clydesdale wears a backwards cap and sunglasses; Charlie Flenderson has a huge backpack on that you would expect from a Year 9; Sheriff Flenderson wears a cowboy-style hat; Deputy Marshall (Beth Jones) wears black police hat; Vicky Adams (also Jones) carries a frisbee; Betty Clydesdale (also Barker) ties an orange jumper around her shoulders; and Felipe McDonald-Cuevas (also Kelly) wears the cap frontways. Even though each character is quite unique and we are not likely to mix them up, this does help when the actors were switching between characters.
Night of the Silver Moon even incorporates a wee ad break where they promote other shows. This is in good keeping of the spirit of Fringe and also evokes the idea of listening to a late night radio show from in the 1950s. It’s fab.
Overall, I have a grand ole time at Night of the Silver Moon, making me feel nostalgic for the time when I frothed paranormal stories and reminding me how fun silliness can be!
Night of the Silver Moon is a six episode show which premiered during Fringe on the 25th of February. Squash Co. Arts Collective will be performing an episode once a month and I will be the reoccurring reviewer on this adventure – what else is going to unfold under the beams of the silver moon? Come with me to find out. Their next show will be the 25th of March and tickets are available now at BATS.
Note: Jack McGee is a producer of the show. He is also a regular contributor to Art Murmurs and a friend of mine. I have tried to give a fair, unbiased, and balanced review. If you feel I have not done so, please leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org