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BWW Review: AGES OF THE MOON, The Vaults

BWW Review: AGES OF THE MOON, The VaultsBWW Review: AGES OF THE MOON, The Vaults

The last time a Sam Shepard play was in town, London audiences got to see Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn take on True West directed by Matthew Dunster. Now, Alexander Lass is at the helm of Ages of the Moon at The Vaults, marking the play's UK premiere ten years after its debut in Dublin. It stars Christopher Fairbank and Joseph Marcell as lifelong friends, reunited in a cabin in nowhere USA after life has done its best to burn them out.

Nothing much happens in the piece, the duo bicker and exchange memories while the late Shepard weaves and unravels the dialogue in his typically sophisticated yet grounded style. Some of the contents of the script, however, blindside its beauty and lead it onto a path that's as outdated as perhaps slightly myopic in this day and age. While they moan about growing old, their views on women and their place in the world break through with sexist and at times plainly offensive remarks.

In this realm, women (usually younger) are either looking hot while riding horses and bikes or they're a pain when they find out that their husband has been cheating on them. The men's tempers are short and their fuses go off quickly when the other says the wrong word or comes off too harshly, yet they're the ones who - according to Ames and Byron themselves - are more rooted to the ground. Fan ceilings get shot at with a rifle and bourbon washes down locker room talk in this exceptionally masculine drama.

The rest of the topics discussed by the two, albeit fairly more interesting than their half-hearted escapades, doesn't excuse their rather simplistic perspectives. Their attempts at discussing their age and failing health are overshadowed by their circling back to objectification and solitude (always either self-imposed or at the hand of their wives). The reflections offered by Ages of the Moon unfortunately seem to never dig deeper than this until the finale, but Lass manages to keep the show moving even in its stillness.

The actors barely move; they sit on Ames' porch (designed by Holly Pigott as the archetype of a charmingly rural shack lost somewhere in the American wilderness) and drain bottles of Woodford Reserve, occasionally standing up to shout at each other or to argue with the defective ceiling fan. Lass uses the rhythm and nuance of Shepard's text to stir the otherwise inert scene, using their quiet back-and-forths to strengthen the various subsequent explosions.

Fairbank and Marcell are loud and proud, with the former looking like a washed-out Clint Eastwood while the latter tries to get under his skin. Their performances remain undiluted until the very end, but essentially offer two old fellows squabbling over past experiences and recalling days gone by. Ames and Byron are products of the environment and era they inhabited, they love each other as stereotypical manly men do, and show their feelings in perplexing and contorted ways.

Shepard's piece is one to be taken at face value, considering all the problematic elements it presents and contextualising them properly. It definitely romanticises narrow-minded trains of thought, but it also exudes playwriting finesse. Ages of the Moon is complex: it sees two male figures gradually opening up to each other, but doing so on their own terms and eventually accepting their place in the world.

Ages of the Moon runs at The Vaults until 24 November.

Production image: Mark Senior


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From This Author Cindy Marcolina