Night of the Silver Moon, directed by Ben Kelly and written by John Mambo, Esteban Jaramillo, Finlay Langelaan, and Tom Aitcheson, is a serialised, live performance and recording of a goofy spoofy radio drama. Before we are thrust back into this paranormal teen woodland world, we must calibrate for the mics. Whether this is actually for the mics or not, it’s a great way to warm up the audience on a weird summer/autumn/winter night feel in Wellington, and the audience are LOUD. It’s so nice to be in a room buzzing with excitement.
We are launched back into Moonville, getting a quick recap of the previous episode. This means new audiences can show up for each episode – a smart move on the creative team’s part. Although you can also hop onto Spotify to listen to the first episode. All of them, once recorded at the live shows, will be popped up on the interweb for anyone’s audio pleasure.
Now, I must eat my words from my previous review a bit. I do ramble on about micro/macro storytelling and saying I didn’t think it worked for the first episode and was dismayed that the micro story didn’t continue, despite it being added into the story. But it does continue in Episode Two. There seems to be more than meets the eye about Moonville and perhaps there were some experimental science which have given the ability of snails and slugs (who seem to be in a gang war with each other) the ability of speech and (potentially) apposable thumbs in order to hold weapons like slug guns. This discovery comes alongside a moment of tension and then connection between two characters. In my Episode One review, I thought a lot and therefore wrote a lot about who was giving the emotional depth to this story due to some dialogue that is essentially a joke set up and punchline, but Episode Two has combatted that in a couple of places, one of them being in this aforementioned moment between Sherrif Flenderson (Phoebe Caldeiro) and Deputy Marshall (Nina Hogg) – who’s pronouns are he/him but is so far continuously voiced by femme-presenting actors… is there an upcoming trans or non-binary storyline?? Ultimately, I don’t think this series will delve into anything too serious and emotional, but we need emotional investment as an audience to keep us in our seats for six full episodes, something more than characters being sweet and funny. I will keep an eye out.
Night of the Silver Moon Episode Two felt both faster and slower than the previous episode. It felt more fast paced because we had a single mission that took over the episode – Felipe (Austin Harrison) and Charlie (Campbell Wright) needing a maths cheat sheet once they realise dogs can’t do math or else they are doomed to repeat a dreaded year of high school. But it felt slower in the overall plot line. We don’t get all that much closer to solving the mystery of who’s killing people like Unnamed Murder Victim Number One (who has been quickly forgotten, but not by me, I will soldier on to tell the tale of the great… oh, that’s a story for another time. Moving on!). In addition to the secret scientific history of Moonville, Sam Clydesdale doesn’t seem to be working alone, but with a Mother Gothel/The Witch Carver from Brave (based on the voice Nina Hogg performs) type character. To what end, we are not sure.
The benefit of this fast/slow episode is that we get a bit more time with Felipe. Another form of unrequited love is broached as Felipe realises he has romantic and definitely not platonic feelings for Charlie. Not only does this bring us closer to Felipe and bring out a softer side, it muddies the love triangle waters of this teenage show. Harrison as Felipe is simply delightful. The downside of the fast/slow show is that even though we have a good ride, we only find ourselves at the next set of lights, rather than on the motorway.
A unique enterprise is having a revolving cast, except for Teag Mackay, who remains our narrator and staple voice. The same or similar props are used in Episode Two for each of the characters, apart from Betty Clydesdale who has lipstick in this episode rather than the sweater. In Episode Two, we have Hogg bringing a more vain and vapid Betty Clydesdale, a firmer Deputy Marshall, and a rather intense improviser Jess And. Caldeiro portrays a more sinister Vicky Adams and a gruff Sherrif Flenderson. Harrison plays an enthusiastic and sweet Felipe and a passionate Constantine Stanislavski, while Wright successfully takes over the mantle from Aicheson’s characterisation of Charlie in a way that felt familiar but slightly more earnest. What is interesting about these is that it gives the actors the freedom to try out their version of the character. It being an audio story, so long as the actors remain the same for the characters they’re portraying, then we will know which one is which character. Hogg’s Betty Clydesdale was always putting on lipstick, while Deputy Marshall does not wear lipstick, and it was rather entertaining to see Hogg commit in a scene where both characters are present to wipe off the lipstick for Deputy Marshall and putting it back on for Berry Clydesdale. It became a visual joke in and of itself as at the end of the night, Hogg had lipstick all over her face. There are one or two lines that are read by an actor who doesn’t play the character due to costume changes/set ups, which for consistency isn’t great, but it’s only quick so we move on fairly fast. I hope it’s not too confusing for the audience listening in down the line.
The nature of this episode meant infiltrating the improv kids. And Night of the Silver Moon does so with two well-known Wellington improvisers – Hogg and Harrison. There are three moments where there is actual improv, where they ask for a relationship or location from the live audience. This was fantastic, as it changed the nature of the relationship between the audience and the performance. And it turns out to be quite fun.
As always, the sound design (Jaramillo) is great and the operation by Kelly is hitting all of the marks. Will we get to a point in the series where the “Applause” sign will light up? Hopefully there’s more to come, especially if the rules of the show expand to change and challenge the role of the audience, like with Episode Two and improv.
Squash Co. Arts Collective are really pushing boundaries of live theatre and it’s really exiting. Only time will tell if the show can keep up with itself, keep its audience engaged and interested, and develop the narrative and character arcs.
The next episode is being recorded live at BATS Theatre on the 29th of April. Be there or be square!
Note: Jack McGee is a producer of the show and Austin Harrison performed in this episode. Both are regular contributors to Art Murmurs, friends of mine, and Austin is one of the Administrators of Art Murmurs. 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 email@example.com