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26th October 2018

Review: Keisha Thompson: ‘Man on the Moon’

Sam McElhattan reviews Keisha Thompson: ‘Man on the Moon’ as part of Contact at STUN
Review: Keisha Thompson: ‘Man on the Moon’
Photo: Benji Reid

Keisha Thompson’s magical one woman show ‘Man on the Moon’ landed at STUN Studio. Through a mixture of storytelling, looped sound, singing, poetry, and spoken word, Thompson and director Benji Reid created the best piece of theatre I have seen in a long time.

‘Man on the Moon’ tells the story of Thompson’s fragmented relationship with her father, who has communicated with her only through sending books in the post since she was a young child. This resulted in confusion surrounding her own identity. The search to understand it was delicately handled by Thompson — questions were asked to prompt an analysis of the factors we use to form identity, but there was enough room left to make the journey relatable.

The piece explored the way a childhood memory can hold two meanings: being either childhood nostalgia or an unsettling memory that comes from an adult perspective. By flicking back and forth between memories of receiving books, and her anguish at the realisation that she does not know her father, Thompson beautifully captured these contrasting meanings. I really felt like I understood what she was going through.

Thompson gave a stellar performance, deploying a calm and conversational style that made it feel directed at an individual than at a large audience. I cannot remember the last time someone held my attention completely for an hour and a half. The show was particularly striking when Thompson created the world of the narrative. In a particularly memorable section depicting the characters you encounter on a bus journey, there was a shared understanding throughout the theatre of a situation that we had all been in. This connection occurred because of the honesty in her performance as she reminisced. I wish there had been more sections like this.

My only criticism is of a sofa which became a ‘spaceship’, releasing smoke and pushing itself off the ground. It was a bit much for me. However, it did create a hopeful, yet heart-breaking moment where Thompson sat on top of it and planned a trip to the moon with her father.

What is remarkable about this play is the way that such an unusual story about a relationship based on communication via books can be told in a way that feels relatable. There were certain parts that everyone could understand, such as a book on ‘healthy sex’ acting as an alternative to ‘the talk’. Thompson and Reid’s genius was knowing which parts would resonate with the audience and inviting  us to join Thompson on every step of her journey. It was an incredibly touching piece of theatre that I would gladly see again.

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