Ages of the Moon at the Vaults
After several runs in Canada, the USA and Ireland, the late Sam Shepard’s Ages of the Moon receives its UK premiere at the Vaults this month, featuring Christopher Fairbank as Ames and Joseph Marcell as Byron. With a wonderful chemistry between the actors, some attractive set designs by Holly Pigott, and plenty of comedy amidst the more dramatic moments, this production is funny, pleasant, and often just plain charming.
The play is primarily a study of two men bemoaning loss and old age, as Byron rushes to Ames after the latter’s marriage has ended in disaster. Drinking too much whiskey and occasionally getting into little fights, they reminisce about their shared past – including their love lives – on the porch. The play is strongest when it focuses on their friendship, which provides a number of heartwarming moments.
Unfortunately, such moments are rather rare, as are the more tragic moments dealing with loss; for the vast majority of the barely 60-minutes’ runtime, the script throws one joke after another at the audience. While the humour for the most part is good, it is rarely enough to carry the performance’s entire weight. There’s just too little substance to go on, despite the more touching moments which Marcell and Fairbank enact flawlessly.
This is particularly frustrating given how believable and well-written most of the lines are; the characters behave like an old couple, as one would expect old friends to, and their development is spread evenly throughout. But it’s just missing something more fundamental – a greater exploration of its themes, which are examined better elsewhere. As a result, it feels somewhat flat, despite everything.
But Alexander Lass’s production is very impressive indeed, supported by Jai Morjaria’s lighting and Hollie Buhagiar’s sound design. All this, coupled with Pigott’s authentic costumes and set, makes Ages of the Moon a pleasure to look at, succeeding in highlighting the more important moments.
Ages of the Moon is a mixed blessing. The better moments are brilliant, bringing out the best of a mostly strong production, but there’s too little to go on to make the play stand on its own two feet. It’s generally entertaining and worth a watch, but it probably won’t go down in the history of theatre.
Photos: Mark Senior
Ages of the Moon is at the Vaults from 17th October until 24th November 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.