Sean Verey, Bradley Taylor, Emily Plumtree, Krupa Pattani, Sian Robins-Grace and Beru Tessema
One of Philip Ridleys ‘The Storyteller Sequence’ plays for young people, Moonfleece was first performed by a teenage cast at the National Theatre annual Connections project in 2004.
This revised version for Supporting Wall is its first professional production, which after opening in early March in Bethnal Green (where the play is set), toured English towns with similarly multiracial communities (though it was infamously banned by Dudley council), before now returning to London.
The play starts dramatically with two members of an unnamed far-right political party breaking into a squatted flat in a condemned East End tower block.
It turns out though that the motives are personal rather than political, as they are doing it on behalf of Curtis, the stepson of the partys leader, who wants to confront painful memories of his past in the home in which he grew up.
Not only was Curtiss father killed by muggers, but his elder brother Jason died mysteriously while travelling in South America having recently seen his ghost, Curtis has arranged a sance with a medium to find out what happened to Jason. But word has leaked out, and his ex-girlfriend and her liberal friends turn up for a showdown of competing allegiances as revelations unfold.
Although Moonfleece offers a lively treatment of disturbing issues such as racism, homophobia, identity, betrayal and loss, it seems amazing that a local authority would want to stop this play being staged. Compared with some of Ridleys other plays, such as the highly controversial Mercury Fur which featured gangsters murdering a child for a wealthy clients entertainment, this is mild material that would only offend extreme bigots. In fact, the clear-cut approach to the themes is soft-centred rather than confrontational, perhaps designed for post-show discussions in schools.
Its a nice idea to have the right-wingers dressed in the same light-grey suits with red ties and St Georges flag badges, emphasizing their uniformity as they make an unconvincing attempt at respectability, but there is no real sense of menace or violence here. Ridley is more successful at portraying the angst of a young person trying to find out who he is as old certainties crumble. The play also celebrates the redemptive power of storytelling, with its allegorical uncovering of the dark truth in Curtiss family past.
Director David Mercatali produces strong, committed performances from his young cast. Sean Verey impresses as the doubt-ridden Curtis, a sensitive 18-year-old who is forced to question the validity of the repressive politics of the party he joined after his mothers remarriage. As his sometime girlfriend, Emily Plumtree is a sympathetic presence, Krupa Pattani is her feisty girl-power Asian friend, David Ames a mischievous gay newspaper journalist and Sian Robins-Grace is a forceful wheelchair-bound medium, while street storyteller Beru Tessema spins his fairy-tale yarn with aplomb.
This production of Moonfleeces accessibly theatrical expos of a BNP-style intolerance towards minorities is well timed in the run-up to the general election.
Moonfleece will play Greenwich Theatre, London, from 15-17 April.