Beast on the Moon

Richard Kalinoski
Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre
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Escaping the Turkish massacre of Armenians and trying to build a new life in 1920s America cannot have been easy for any refugee. Certainly it doesn’t look an easy start for Aram and Seta. Even before they met, both their families had been horrifically murdered as part of the Turkish government's extermination policy that is estimated to have killed one and half million people, something Turkey has never acknowledged.

Aram is a photographer determined to make a new life in America but he keeps a picture of his dead family prominently displayed in his home. Since part of that new life is creating a family, he arranges to marry Sita by proxy based on the picture of a dead girl. When the newly arrived fifteen-year-old points this out, he is only initially bothered since his purpose in marriage is the children it gives him.

The gentle simplicity of Zarima McDermott as Sita and George Jovanovic as Aram encourage us to care about their tragic backstory, a wider picture to which is added by a narrator (Hayward B Morse) who as Vincent came into contact with the couple at the age of twelve.

Sita has no idea what to expect and Aram has fairly fixed ideas about the need for his wife to be obedient and quiet. After reading her quotes from the Bible that support his views, he takes her photograph and prepares for bed. Terrified of what is to happen, she hides under the table and has to be dragged out crying. To make matters worse, he confiscates the doll she desperately clings to.

Their difficulties in communicating with each other over the following years grow worse when he learns that, because of a lack of food at the age of nine, she can’t have children. She may shop for him, make his food and iron his clothes, but if she can't deliver the babies then he sees no point in talking to her. And perhaps things might have remained that way except with age Sita grows in confidence and begins to shape a healthier, more satisfying relationship. She is the real breathing centre of the play and the most believable character.

The play can feel too narrowly focused on their failure to communicate and takes a long time to illustrate the point. However, it's an important reminder of a time when America may have been poorer but was a lot more welcoming than the one we see today.

Keith Mckenna