Review – Moonlight, Donmar

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Sorry. We’ve only just troubled you with some of the differences between the Whinger but here’s another one, as though you cared.

Some years back Andrew swore that he would never permit Harold Pinter to darken his theatregoing door again.

Phil, on the other hand, had been put off Pinter when he studied The Caretaker at school (Andrew expresses surprise at this, surely a more contemporary playwright for Phil would have been, say, Congreve?) but was understandably converted by seeing Dora Bryan in a NT production of The Birthday Party many, many moons ago.

Andrew should have known better. But even Phil really should have known to draw the line at the Donmar’s Moonlight, having yawned through the original, rather starry (Ian Holm, Anna Massey, Douglas Hodge, Michael Sheen, Claire Skinner, Edward de Souza) production at the Almeida in 1993.

But whether the result of a gluttony for punishment or optimism wrestling experience to the floor and sitting on its chest, the Whingers gamely trotted off to the Donmar to – it turns out – stick proverbial pins in their eyes yet again.

So what’s it all about then? An old man (David Bradley) lies dying in bed, recalling his life and loves to his embroidering wife (Deborah Findlay). If only we had thought to bring our own needlepoint the evening might have been not entirely wasted.

Their sons (Daniel Mays, Liam Garrigan) sit in another bedroom talking rather unpleasantly about their father while the ghost (we discovered later from the programme) of their sister Bridget (Lisa Diveney) drops by occasionally to add to the drear. Beyond that we can provide little enlightenment.

But the Donmar website clears things up…

A tragic comedy of family dysfunction, Moonlight is one of Harold Pinter’s most human and poignant plays suffused with universal emotions: the cold dread of death; the pain of separation from loved ones; the longing for reunion; and the continuity of the family.

Yes, it is a tragic comedy which may explain why a handful of people were releasing self-satisfied laughs despite the fact that – as comedies go – it was on a par with sitting through a double bill of Precious and Angela’s Ashes.*

Bunny Christie’s set is largely bare save the now overused Donmar motif of stylishly lighting the edges of the stage which adds to an atmospheric gloom (Jon Clark) quite conducive to nodding off. How comfortable Bradley’s bed looked. Heck, even shabby Fred’s bed looked inviting. Things might have been so much tolerable if the Whingers had thought to pack their jammies, selected a bed each, climbed in and joined them.

But while Phil struggled to keep awake, Andrew was begging for sleep (or failing that, death) in the hope that he could drift off and awake refreshed.

Little is wrong with Bijan Sheibani’s production or the acting and the sound (Dan Jones) is especially effective. And both Whingers perked up when a tantalising snippet of The Cure’s “The Love Cats” was played.

Director Sheibani brought us Greenland, so he knows the futility of trying to shape silk purses and so it proves here: Moonlight is painfully tedious, obfuscatory, pretentious twaddle. It is shockingly, shockingly boring.

The best we can say is that  if you find time passing faster with each year and are looking to slow it down Moonlighting can make 1 hour 20 minutes (advertised as 1hr 10) seem like an eternity.



*On the subject of films: the Whingers have been enjoying a Liz Taylor season recently which with a peculiar prescience started just before she died, or perhaps it was news of this that sapped her of her will to live. Miss Taylor’s oeuvre turns out to be an embarrassment of bad film riches which has so far provided many mirthful hours for the Whingers. We can highly recommend Zee & Co and Secret Ceremony but if you only have the stomach for one then rent, sit back and gawp in disbelief at Boom! in which the combined efforts of Tennessee Williams, Taylor, Burton, Noel Coward, Joseph Losey and the 1960s conspire to produce what is surely one of the worst movies of all time. Fabulous.

6 Responses to “Review – Moonlight, Donmar”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    HAH! I wondered how you’d enjoy a group of people wittering grimly on about death! I enjoyed it but Pinter is my theatrical Rioja.

  2. Lord Andrew Lloyds Slipper Sniffer Says:

    I saw the original Almeida production too. It was so bad that I remember gazing up at the theatre ceiling and trying to picture Pinter’s deadly dialogue on the printed page. I seem to remember a telephone in its own spotlight and poor Ian Holm having to spout lines about ‘plum duff’. Plum duff is about the measure of it.

  3. Rev Stan Says:

    Couldn’t agree more. But I’m determined not to be put off Pinter because of it.

  4. Thomas Dillon Says:

    I think there is room for a who-wrote-Shakespeare debate here. Some of “Pinter” is marvellous (No Man’s Land, The Hothouse etc). Other “Pinter” is unspeakably dull and/or pretentious (Mountain Language). I too saw Moonlight in the Almeida production in ’93 and vaguely remember being underwhelmed, but the cast was indeed starry.

  5. abragante Says:

    “… the now overused Donmar motif of stylishly lighting the edges of the stage which adds to an atmospheric gloom (Jon Clark) quite conducive to nodding off.”

    Can anyone enlighten me as to what that means?

  6. sandown Says:

    Pinter’s last worthwhile play was “Betrayal” in 1978.

    Everything he wrote after that — although there wasn’t much of it — was worthless.

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