…If we’ve never been to the moon?
This play was quite unlike anything that has been done before. Part of the reason is that you do not feel like you’re watching it passively; instead it is a highly interactive play that involves audience participation in various sing-alongs and even reading out parts of the script. The close proximity between the two actors and the small audience of around 23 creates an intimate and engaging atmosphere. This is risky and ambitious, as the entirety of the play’s success rests on the shoulders of the two actors. There were several characters played by the actress especially, and her ability to switch costumes and accents seamlessly was fascinating to watch unfold.
Marlowe’s production introduces Noel in 2016, played by Jonathan Tynan-Moss, who reminisces on the events that happened in 1989, respectively his participation in ‘You’ve Been Framed!’ and the failure to pay his due earnings. Therefore, he sets out on a quest to discover the person that was responsible for that. The protagonist begins as a frustrated man with a complicated relationship with ex-girlfriend Jenny (a role played by Eleanor Wright) and no interest in anything apart from playing video games. But he is altered when he stumbles across a mysterious attic and discovers multiple briefcases holding letters and articles on conspiracy theories. He becomes obsessed with them, eventually worsening the relationship with his friends and family.
One of the most significant characters in the life of Noel, is a wedding singer named Noella. She manages to see something in him, cutting right though the white noise in Noel’s mind. The change from a frightened, conspiracy theory obsessed Noel, is initiated by Noella’s questioning of the purpose of his journey. He slowly realises that he made no ground-breaking discoveries by doubting the moon landings. The play manages to convey the confusion and unsettled desires of the youth of 1989 through the evolution of Noel.
The humour and plot of the play is quirky and complex, you’d have to pay attention to understand and appreciate it. The subject matters range from the very mundane, very British (with references to ‘You’ve been Framed!’) to the very universal and timeless moon landing conspiracy theories. All these references seem a bit chaotic and random, quite like the characters themselves. The audience themselves have to accept that this is no ordinary play, and oddly enough once you do that, the play starts to make sense.
As we follow the characters from one bizarre situation to another, the play culminates as a story of self-acceptance. The story takes the audience on a wild and unusual journey, exploring issues far beyond the characters themselves, but is ultimately grounded in Noel’s personal struggles. So no matter how bizarre and strange the whole story is, the play has a satisfying feel-good quality in the end.