Whether you bought a ticket for the slightly unnerving image design or for the sheer length of the title, you would be forgiven for rethinking your choice once you notice a daunting masked figure lingering in the corner of the stage. As the show waits to begin, an ethereal soundscape conjures images of dreams that are about to take a turn for the terrifying. Loft’s production explores the effects of trauma on mental health, with the light touch that doesn’t betray the heft of its themes. Momo and the Inevitable Decay of the House in the Forest is a varied piece of theatre with significant promise, but a few too many detracting distractions.
A varied piece of theatre with significant promise, but a few too many detracting distractions.
Ricocheting back and forth between mid noughties Finland and the present day, Momo pitches a story about childhood and the lasting effects of what might be experienced. As a child, Ellie holidays with her family – artist mother and writer father, though even from the beginning the cracks are apparent in the family unit. Seeking reprisal from ever more intense arguments, Ellie ventures into the forest and finds a friend in Momo, A masked girl who apparently makes her home amongst the trees.
For a young cast, Momo features impressive performances, particularly from lead Grace Cherry. Playing Ellie, Cherry masterfully switches between the two time periods, marking the age gap with subtle yet effective alterations to her movement and vocals. Tom Whittaker too is especially emotive in his role as Father, though his many accent changes (as required by his multi-rolling) become a little tiresome through their stereotyped lack of exactitude. The incredibly slick costume change transitions demonstrate the company’s clear capability for professionality, as do short lived projections and even some pleasant shadow puppetry.
Elsewhere, Momo boasts such an eclectic range of these techniques and influences, but some are pulled off more successfully than others. A depart from naturalism into a clowning segment seems particularly misjudged, considering its use to outline a therapy session. Worsening matters is the music, scoring the show with alienating repetitions of bittersweet folk songs and more chilling mood music. In all of its production aspects, Momo never truly settles into a single tone. Moments are certainly creepy and largely unsettling, but are intercut with cheesy comedy segments that lesson any blows the script attempts to make. Ultimately, a dark turn is so blindsiding because of the confused tone that is impact is utterly limited.
Momo is a frustrating show because of its clear promise. Sadly, the company attempt too much in such a short amount of time. Past the variety of theatrical forms on display, the plot itself splits its focus too much between Ellie and her mother, and it is not clear who empathy should lie with. With more focus on what they are trying to say about mental health, and some time to figure out which aspects of the show truly make it soar, and Loft may achieve excellence with Momo.