The Far Side of the Moon
is a meeting place of personal histories, politics and dreams.
It chronicles the turbulent events of the space race between the American astronauts and the Russian cosmonauts of the 1960s and, using the lives of Philippe and Andre (two very different brothers), magnifies our search for meaning in a world where boundaries begin to blur once we enter the ether.
Written, directed and designed by the masterful innovator Robert Lepage, this solo show, performed by Yves Jacques, has played to audiences around the world for almost two decades.
The magic certainly hasn't dimmed. Jacques is a virtuoso performer who alternates between portraying ageing doctoral student Philippe (who must defend his thesis on the effects of space travel on popular culture) and his loud, brash and not a little blustery brother Andre, the local weatherman pretending to be God.
Childhood memories, lovers quarrels, historical events are all compounded into a carefully chiselled exploration of what it means to be alone in the world but with the elusive possibility of knowing there is life beyond our horizons. The backdrop is immense: an international race to be the first to caress what scientists called "the disfigured side of the moon."
In this vortex of self-searching, Jacques combines pace, voice and charisma but he's not alone. A childlike astronaut puppet adds another dimension to this world which, held down by the gravity of our domestic world, always feels like it is only a moment away from liftoff.
The production values combine a simple set (a folding mirror, sliding walls and the door of a front loader) but with exquisitely thoughtful digital innovation that constantly creates movement, reflection and humour. Chalkboards, videos, newsreels, archival footage, home videos offer a constant stream of images laden with signs, symbols and metaphors that speak to love, loss and hope.
Even after its long performance history, the show continues to appeal to audiences today. Not only for its allegorical commentary on the wider events taking place in the world but for its bounty of poetic qualities. Otherworldly, beauteous and memorable, this is an orchestrated vision that combines sophisticated technology with the innocence of unimpeded belief - a timeless tale guaranteed to become a classic.
What: The Far Side of the Moon
Where & when: ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre; until Sunday
Reviewed: Dione Joseph