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Yellow Moon- Tag Theatre Company , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , June 9, 2008
Theatre of Scotland by Yellow Moon- Tag Theatre Company The late Roy Porter, historian of sickness and medicine, was so prolific that an admiring reviewer once wondered if he were less a single person than front-name for a whole bevy of hard-writing scholars. The same might be said of Edinburgh-born dramatist David Greig. With more than forty original works and adaptations to his name his output is as long as Abergavenny’s Charles Way but Greig’s first production was only in 1992.

His 2006 “Yellow Moon” won the TMA award last year for Best Show for Children and Young People. It has now had a fresh airing, to New York alongside Ian Rowlands’ “Blink”, in Wales for a seven-venue tour and then to Inverness and the Orkneys. It first toured schools across Scotland and is already a phenomenon. In a time of perennial complaint that theatre bypasses the young, “Yellow Moon” has acquired a lively reputation on Facebook and elsewhere.

Its popularity is helped by the fact of it being wholly unpatronising to its intended audience. It is also fresh up-to-date with mention of reality shows, self-harm and celebrity mags. Troubled teenager Lee rolls up his t-shirt to show off abs and pecs. A sexual invitation, not taken up, is roughly worded. In a week when even the Prime Minister has weighed in on the subject of knife crime a fight early on turns tragic with a knifing.

The story, drawn from an old blues number “The Ballad of Stagger Lee”, is fast-driven with narration split at speed across the four actors. Lee Macalinden is a fatherless, drifting teenager who meets Leila Suleiman in a newsagent on her Friday night outing to find connection in “Hello” and “Heat.” Leila, a self-cutter, has almost withdrawn from speech. She has once met God, in the setting of the Great Mosque at Damascus. (This location has not been visited by many but the author has been there.)

The language mixes touches of lyricism- “the yellow moon made a glint of gold in his eyes”- with demotic verse: “Lee’s bored. He wants some fags/ Goes nicking from handbags/ Works out his top ten shags” and “Dump the bike in Kinlochewe/ Just enough to buy a brew/ Not quite sure what to do.”

The plot is more mythic than naturalistic; the couple on the run, the search for a lost father. The evisceration of a hind and the removal of her heart prefigures the same event later on with a human being. There is no shortage of action. A moor of heather is set alight. There is a swim in an ice-cold loch, a break-in into a mansion, sexual exposure, a killing.

“Yellow Moon” is portable theatre at its prime with the lights undimmed, three black chairs only for props, the audience on four sides. It is impossible to pick from the cast one who excels over the others. In no particular order they are Keith McPherson as the sharp, often sozzled gillie Frank, Beth Marshall, husky-voiced, as mother Jenni and the fairly inane TV personality Holly, Nalini Chetty as the silent Leila and Andrew Scott-Ramsay as protagonist Lee.

I have the vaguest of memories of dramas that occasionally limped into my schools. If, as for the kids in Scotland, our lessons had been skipped in favour of this seventy-five minutes of pulsating language and action we would have been over the moon, yellow or any colour.

“Yellow Moon” plays Ystradgynlais 9th June, Theatr Brycheiniog 11th June and Sherman Cymru 12th June.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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