Man on the Moon

Simon Bartram, adapted for the stage by Zoe Cooper

New Writing North, Sage Gateshead and Durham Book Festival

The Sage, Gateshead

On 04 October 2015

Review by Peter Lathan

Based on the children’s picture book Man on the Moon (A Day in the Life of Bob), the play is aimed at children of 7 or under and, of course, their families.

Children of that age don’t have the longest attention spans and so shows aimed at them need a variety of ingredients to keep them involved:

  • The characters have to be larger than life and, if they’re adults, probably a little silly.
  • There should always be a bossy one. After all, that’s what grown-ups are so it wouldn't be real if there wasn’t one.
  • Funny is always good.
  • Costumes should be bright and colourful.
  • There’s got to be a strong, easy-to-follow storyline.
  • If the children can know more of what’s going on than the main character, they’ll love that.
  • There have to be lots of opportunities for joining in: shouting, singing, doing actions.
  • If there’s a little bit of rudeness—mention of wee or snot is always good—that’s a real plus.

And Man on the Moon has it all. It simply tells the story of a day in the life of Bob, the caretaker of the Moon, from waking up, having his breakfast, getting into his rocket to go to work where he hoovers and sweeps and dusts, has his lunch, eventually finishes work, comes home (in his rocket, of course) and goes to bed. Seemingly unpromising material but it works.

Bob himself (played by Matthew Gundell) tells us all this because this is a meeting of the Bob Fan Club and we are all members. He knows all there is to know about the Moon and he is very sure that there are no aliens!

The three leading members of the Fan Club are also there—but don’t tell Bob that they’re aliens! Rita (Claire Tustin) is the leader (and the bossy one); then there’s Terry (Calum Howard) who’s a bit silly and can be easily upset but he’s a good musician, and finally there’s Nora (Samantha Morris) who’s giggly and little girlish and really wants to know what human snot looks like. And all four play their characters in the broad strokes that children's theatre needs.

The kids loved it, as did the mothers and fathers, and you can’t ask for more than that. Director Ruth Johnson keeps it moving at a fast (but not too fast—no one is left behind) pace, the actors engage with the audience from the start and the whole thing is fun—and not just for the children but for their adults too.

The show tours to venues in County Durham, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, in Manchester, Sheffield, Hull, Leeds and Wakefield. Dates and venues can be found on the show’s web site.