The Dark Side of the Half Moon

Neil Armstrong and Brian Walsh
Ion Productions
Customs House, South Shields

(L to R) Keith Henderson, Bob Stott and Paul Dunn, with Kylie Ann Ford in the background

The Dark Side of the Half Moon is a comedy thriller, set in a pub which is about to change into a cafe bar, something which the regulars definitely don’t want. Even before the change happens, landlord Trevor has banned gambling. No gambling, a new notice says, on dominoes, darts, cards, buckaroo or pool - but not, as Tommy, the leader of the rebellious regulars, points out, on snail racing, so he pops back to his allotment to bring the “runners”. He can’t find enough snails, so one is a slug!

It’s as if we are being prepared for an absurdist comedy, particularly as the race track is to be the sandwich board which not terribly bright Stan, the fruit-machine addict, is paid to carry around the town to advertise the new “family friendly” bar.

But, although a few more absurdist elements do creep in (I won’t mention them: that would constitute a spoiler!), they are not, in fact, the main thrust of the play’s development. That is the increasing certainty in the somewhat manic Tommy’s mind that Trevor has murdered his wife Maria who is supposedly on an extended cruise, where she is (also supposedly) having an affair with the ship’s captain.

The others are very willing to believe this, which is hardly surprising as they all seem to be hiding something. Why, for example, does Trevor’s brother Rob smash all the bottles of wine in the cellar with a pool cue? And just what has journalist Harry been up to with his camera?

And are Trevor and Shelagh the barmaid having an affair?

The madcap comedy of the first act turns much more black in act two as all secrets are revealed and the play progresses to its end with not one but two twists in the tail.

Co-writer Neil Armstrong plays Trevor, with the regulars Harry (Keith Henderson), Jesus (Paul Dunn), Rob (James Hedley) and Stan (director Gareth Hunter) being led by Customs House panto favourite Bob Stott with Kylie Ann Ford playing Shelagh.

On the first night the play did take a little while to get going, with a few opportunities for laughs being lost, but once they did hit the pace the laughs came thick and fast. And the audience certainly had a good time!

The Dark Side of the Half Moon is the third of a series of four local productions to run at the theatre since the last week in August, a testament to the range of theatrical talent in the area and to the efforts of the Customs House to promote it.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan