Desperate Measures: Moonfleece

Philip Ridley is often shocking, constantly provocative, and always thought-provoking. His play Moonfleece forms part of a sequence of works which aims to illuminate the difficulties faced by young people through the means of traditional storytelling and overtly theatrical conventions. Intended to be performed by young people, and speaking directly to that same demographic, students from the Guildford School of Acting are, at first sight, a perfect fit for the presentation of this material.

There is much potential in the cast as their tight ensemble playing confirms.

Housed in an intimate space, Ridley’s tension-imbued dialogue should seize us from the very earliest moment and never relinquish its iron-grip until the end. On this occasion though the performance takes a little warming up to really get going. There is a lack of genuine threat to James Burgess’ enigmatic Link despite his being outnumbered by his right-wing aggressors. Just as it seemed as though Ridley’s power might be too much for the company, the impetus was reinvigorated by a sparky Alex, played by the impressive Lucy Heath, whose verbal articulacy and razor-sharp responses injected some much needed driving force.

From here, the challenging themes of racism, twisted truth and the prospects of disadvantaged youths are presented more convincingly and there are occasions where some fairly static blocking selflessly gives precedence to the words of the play which is engaging and powerful in its own right. Credit here to the direction of the piece which ensures that each character’s reaction is always visible despite the cramped conditions of the space.

Certainly, the performance ebbs and flows – moments of high energy are interspersed with mistimed lines and some fractured rhythms which seem to go against the natural flow of the dialogue. That said, moments of skill and promise arise. These are most notable in the séance scene, featuring some astute technical timing and the swift establishment of a chilling atmosphere, and in the lively jungle rhythms, colours and physicality of the storytelling second half of the play. One constant which gives the production a central solidity is the quietly confident performance of Will Beckerley as Curtis. His aura of assured authority gradually disintegrates with each new revelation so that the protagonist is satisfactorily developed by the conclusion.

Seen here early in its run, Desperate Measures: Moonfleece will only continue to improve. There is much potential in the cast as their tight ensemble playing confirms. With more sustained energy and focused comic timing the company can soon achieve the impact that Ridley’s text demands. 

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The Blurb

A politically-charged thriller from one of the UK's most celebrated playwrights. In an abandoned East London flat, lines are drawn and sides taken as Britain's youth collide. On one side, the suited youth of a political agenda, on the other an empowered group of the morally conscious. Yet all are united in the hopes of discovering the truth for one amongst their ranks. Philip Ridley's controversial and shocking masterpiece about the rise of the far right. A play sure to spark debate. 'Ridley is a visionary' (Rolling Stone).

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