The Far Side of the Moon

Robert Lepage/Ex Machina

Barbican

(2003)

Review by Philip Fisher

It would be wonderful to enter the mind of a genius and understand what makes him or her tick. The closest that some of us might get is to attend a performance of The Far Side of the Moon.

The main change since it appeared at the National Theatre a couple of years ago is that the performance is now given by Yves Jacques rather than Lepage himself. It is pleasing to report that Jacques acquits himself well. He gets the Lepage self-deprecation and quirky humour almost spot on.

The Far Side of the Moon tells the story of manned flight, which commenced in the year of the playwright's birth, and represents a good metaphor for life's journey in the late 20th Century. This runs in parallel with the story of a pair of brothers who have just lost their mother. Surprisingly, the two strands manage to illuminate each other.

One brother is a relative failure. He is still a post graduate student at nearly 40 and is fanatical about space travel and its impact on society. The other is a gay TV weatherman. Perhaps it is not that surprising that they do not really get on.

The plot always takes unusual but instructive views of life. It explores the sons' relationship with their parents and each other, the loss of parents and how that affects the children. It also addresses wider issues around science and more fundamentally, the meaning of human existence.

The staging is always witty and inventive with props becoming multi-purpose. Examples include an ironing board that is also a multigym and motorcycle; and a washing machine that becomes a spaceship and TV screen. In addition, good use is made of an assortment of puppets.

The Far Side of the Moon is always a pleasure and demonstrates that Robert Lepage is a very interesting combination, both a skilled artist and a deep thinker.