Claire Della and the Moon

9.3

Production

10.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Content

8.5/10

Things we loved

  • Two versatile performers weaving wonderful performances
  • Some whimsical surprises amid the props
  • Claire's smile after settling into the Moon had warmth and brightness enough to dwarf the Sun
  • Masterful integration of animation and projection

Things we would reconsider

  • Was yearning for a little more buoyancy in the denoument after plumbing the deep, dark depths of the soul

Most of us have experienced times when anger’s gotten the better of us and we’ve blasted off like a rocket into an orbit of rage and self-pity.

In Claire Della And The Moon, Claire’s experience becomes quite literal; she climbs to the Moon to be by herself in peace, quiet, and solitude.

But when is this time out healthy and when does solitude become harmful loneliness?¬†These are questions we’re left to explore after experiencing this whimsical new work by fledgling theatre company, Madness Of Two.

Ellen Graham and Jamie Hornsby began the journey of creating this show thanks to the inaugural Hall of Possibility Artist in Residence program at Slingsby, one of Adelaide’s dynamic theatre companies which is known for producing world class entertainment for children of all ages.

With support from the Department of Premier and Cabinet and local psychologist, Simon Andrews, this duo has crafted a show aimed at helping young audiences talk about and manage their own mental health.

On the bare, thrust stage at the Parks, we are drawn into the daily life of Claire (Ellen Graham), a young girl who finds the noise and distractions of daily life too much to bear. Thanks to a narrator and brother (Jamie Hornsby), we learn how Claire feels out of sorts when interacting with technology (from bus tickets to phones) and people, particularly her brother, and how she longs for this “torture” to stop.

Enter, the Moon.

By escaping to the Moon, Claire gets all the peace and quiet she could hope for and soon discovers you can have too much of a good thing.

Claire’s story is interwoven with that of Laika, a dog who became a Russian cosmonaut, and as Claire hears herself explaining her plight out loud, enlightenment dawns upon her.

Intriguingly, this production shares something else with the Cosmonaut program; there is a Soviet-style bleakness to the landscape and the emotional territory over which we traverse for the best part of 55 minutes. This creates a counterpoint to the eager, earnest, storybook narration style with which the show opens. Indeed, as with the human race during the space race, we are transported away from the warmth and nurture of Mother Earth, and out into the thin, cold, silent expanses of space and deep self.

Graham and Hornsby are versatile performers, at home with singing, physical theatre, puppetry, and dialogue, and they’ve made minimalistic and clever use of projected animation to add extra richness to the story. The destruction of the ladder was a masterful moment, integrating these forms seamlessly.

Interestingly, my 10yo fellow critic’s comments thus far have revolved (or orbited) around the literal elements of the production and story (for example, she found Jamie’s role swapping between character and narrator confusing, and was distracted by some elements of the canine puppet but still laughed and leaned forward throughout the show), and I’m looking forward to hearing what deeper reflections and thoughts emerge, as I’m sure they will.

At it’s heart, this is a show about remembering that for all the pain and risk involved, it is primarily through engaging with other people that we can be our full selves and most likely achieve that feeling of being “at home” – an insight born out of much happiness literature and research.

“I’m better off alone,” exclaims Claire at one point, no you’re not, I reply, you deserve hearty audiences of parents and children so that we can all be better off.