Under Three Moons, written by Daniel Kanaber, had its premiere at The Lowry in Salford. Kanaber had received great critical acclaim for his first debut play Shiver in 2014, and this new play did not disappoint.
The stage was adorned with minimal props, the only constant ones being the glowing moon and twinkling stars hanging from the ceiling. The production follows the lives of two friends, Paul and Michael (Mike), across three decades. The bildungsroman-esque production depicts the changing and evolving lives of the two protagonists in 70 minutes, starting at a sixth form field trip.
Under Three Moons begins with light-hearted, childish sentiments, which were heart-warming to witness. Actor Kyle Rowe (Mike) impressively worked with Kanaber’s warm and sympathetic writing to elicit many laughs from the audience. In contrast, Darren Kuppan brilliantly portrayed the at times awkward and impulsive character of Paul, who is reluctant to strike a friendship with Mike. In only the first section of the play, Kanaber manages to construct the beginning of a life-long friendship whilst simultaneously weaving in the personal struggles of the characters, and hints at how boys start to bottle their emotions.
Without a doubt, dialogue takes centre-stage in this production concerned with masculinity, mental health and communication. As the men get older, communication becomes a much more ambiguous and clouded route. However, their friendship is one which depicts the importance of honesty and communication; of understanding that nothing is as it seems at surface-level; that men must talk more about their sufferings, and that suffering in silence is no way to relieve pain.
Mike struggles to articulate how he feels about his ill mother, whereas Paul is haunted by his problematic and troublesome father. Each with their own demons, the audience is given an insight into the times in which they share them.
When there is no one else to turn to, the men have the rare opportunity to communicate their feelings with one another. Kanaber explains that “that’s what I wanted to write about, how men learn or try to unlearn this emotional obliqueness. And how despite it, there’s a tenderness in it too.”
The friendship of Paul and Mike is one which touches upon topics such as mental health, masculinity, drugs, familial attachments, death, depression, suicide and more. Their friendship remains solid and important, despite the challenges they face both within their friendship and in their personal lives.
Director Adam Quayle states that: “At turns funny and tender, the play explores how two men relate – or rather fail to relate – on three nights across three decades. Quietly, it asks big questions: how to live a life, how to be a good man, how to reach out to others.” Despite the hard-hitting concerns of the production, I was left feeling hopeful and light-hearted.
Mike, as a loveable rogue, provided a significant comic element to the play, through teasing Paul. Their surviving friendship made a very important point about male friendships and the necessity to be honest about struggles and feelings. It was a touching, genuine, and human play which I believe everyone will find a piece of themselves in.
The Mancunion talked to Rowe, Kuppan and Quayle earlier this month.
Under Three Moons tours around the UK until 2nd November. If you didn’t get chance to see it in Manchester, it will be stopping in nearby areas like Crewe, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, and more.