The Moon Is Halfway to Heaven

David Kerby-Kendall
Sally Humphreys Productions
Jermyn Street Theatre
(2011)

The Moon Is Halfway to Heaven publicity image

The moon is an intriguing celestial body and has fascinated human beings since time began. Is it really made out of cheese? Does it really have a face? Can it really be halfway to heaven?

For seven year old Jamie, the moon is a magical place where you have lunch and wave the Earth one last goodbye before ascending to meet St.Peter at the Pearly Gates. During games of cowboys and Indians Jamie and best friend Paul die frequently, but it's only pretend and there's no chance of lunch on the moon quite yet. But as time goes by, and the boys become men, Peter Pan's famous phrase "to die would be an awfully big adventure" becomes ever more significant.

The Moon Is Halfway To Heaven depicts Jamie and Paul's friendship at various points throughout their life, always centred around the bench, tree and grass where they played as children. This is 'their' space away from the world, where they can be friends together and friends forever; playing, bickering, crying, teasing, tormenting, comforting and joking. The Jermyn space has been transformed for the production, complete with life-size tree, and some clever use of projection is employed to help evoke time period and the many settings conjured up in the boys' heads.

Certain motives, themes and phrases run through each of the six scenes spanning 82 years. The childish expletive "bloody bosom" and various intonations of "shut up" resonate as they gain new meaning. The ghosting of the past in the present evokes the reality of life and provides an insightful picture into how we make meaning of the world.

In the role of Jamie, Lucas Hare excels as the little boy with superior knowledge of rude words, who later becomes a hormonal teenager dreaming excitedly of sex. As a young adult Jamie gets plenty of it, but finds it difficult to hold down a marriage; the only constant in his life best buddy Paul. Hare's younger Jamie captures the boisterousness of youth and its constant energy well, but Jamie's latter years are less well portrayed. It is very difficult to achieve a successful dying scene and one can't help but think that had it occurred offstage, rather than the ineffective gulping, gasping and coughing fit onstage, a much more emotional and dramatic ending could have been achieved as Paul, alone, gazes at the moon where his friend now lunches.

Jamie's straight laced friend Paul is played by the play's author David Kerby-Kendall; the role obviously possessing certain significance for him being created by his own fair hand. Kerby-Kendall's writing, like his portrayal of Paul, is both touchingly witty and heartfelt. Watching Kerby-Kendell's characters grow in age and love for one another does what all good theatre should - takes its audience on a journey and empathy is easily achieved when actors truly inhabit and understand their character.

Kerby-Kendall's interesting use of contrasts makes it easy to understand why Jamie and Paul have such a close relationship. However at times slight homosexual, rather than purely homosocial undertones from character Paul manifest confusing things slightly. If intentional, the direction needs to bring these to the fore, rather than suppress them. Such an interpretation would add yet another interesting layer to the pair's enduring relationship as it becomes a tale, not only of friendship, but of unrequited love and identity.

A well crafted study of what true friendship means, The Moon Is Halfway To Heaven sits comfortably between Blood Brothers, Waiting for Godot and Blue Remembered Hills as a charming portrayal of growing up and growing old.

"The Moon Is Halfway To Heaven" plays at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 1st October 2011

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Reviewer: Simon Sladen