The impacts of mental illness, bullying and teenagers searching for their identity are amongst the issues explored in Moth, playing at Theatre Works.
Written by Australian playwright Declan Greene, Moth explores the relationship between 15-year-olds Sebastian (Adam Noviello) and Claryssa (Lucy Ansell).
The year nine high school students are relentlessly bullied at school. Sebastian is considered weird, he smells, he talks to himself and is obsessed with anime and death.
Claryssa, an emo Wiccan, is just as unhappy as Sebastian. While their relationship at times seems complex, both are seemingly supportive of each other.
This changes after an horrific incident which occurs on the school oval one night after the two have been drinking. Sebastian is extremely traumatised by what fellow class mates do to him and Claryssa and as a result experiences an apocalyptic vision of early Christian saint and martyr, St Sebastian.
When he wakes the following morning to find a moth in a jar next to his bed it further fuels his vision from the previous evening that he needs to save the souls of all humankind.
At the same time Claryssa, who is equally traumatised from their experiences on the oval, aims to cut all ties with Sebastian and slips into a deep depression.
As a result of being alone Sebastian spirals into schizophrenic delusion and religious passion resulting in a tragic outcome.
Given its subject matter Moth is at hard times to watch. Credit for this must go to both Ansell and Noviello who believably bring their characters’ traits and angst to life. Through their voices and actions they also play characters who impact on the teenagers including teachers, parents and other students.
Furthermore the 75-minute play requires both to quickly change from dialogue to narration as the play shifts between different times and settings.
Also memorable is the lighting which is used most effectively to highlight the range of emotions Sebastian is experiencing. The lighting also assists in director Briony Dunn’s aim of presenting the play as “an action-packed graphic-novel fiction fantasy”.
This Theatre Works season has been programmed as part of Victoria’s VCE Playlist for Year 11 and 12 drama students. While this age group is likely to get the most from Moth, the quality of the acting and the subject matter suggest there is also food for thought for older generations.
At the same time those who have been bullied, who have an aversion to continual swearing or who are looking for a lightweight play requiring minimal concentration may find Moth a challenge to watch.
Moth is playing at Theatre Works,14 Acland Street St Kilda, until June 3. Visit the Theatre Works website for tickets and more information.
* Photo credit: Daniel Rabin
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Moth as a guest of the producers.
- live theatre, Melbourne
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