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BWW Review: THE RED SIDE OF THE MOON, The Actors' Church


Catchy and well-crafted songs exist within a prosaic show.

BWW Review: THE RED SIDE OF THE MOON, The Actors' Church

BWW Review: THE RED SIDE OF THE MOON, The Actors' Church

Right when summer starts kicking in and restrictions slowly ease, Iris Theatre is putting on an eclectic range of shows at The Actors' Church in Covent Garden. With bunting all around the grounds and flowers blooming, the new musical The Red Side of the Moon couldn't have asked for a better ambience. But while the surroundings providee a great backdrop with their music festival vibes, it's not all rainbows and butterflies for the show.

The plot is straightforward: girl meets girl, they start a band and fall in love. The label sees their sexuality as a problem, so they break up. One goes on to become a world superstar. Everything falls apart. The girl who made it big runs back to her small-town ex. Happy ending.

It's rare to see some healthy lesbian romancing on stage, and in that respect writers Zoe Woodruff (book) and Kathryn Tindall (music and lyrics) deliver a proper meet-cute love story. However, running a little over an hour, The Red Side of the Moon mainly comes off as rushed - just like Beth and Ellen's relationship, as directed by Priya Patel Appleby.

The narrative is too fast: events need more time to grow roots and breathe. The songs, however, are great - at once catchy and well-crafted, like something we've already heard somewhere, which might, in truth, be a blessing and a curse at once. Tindall is, without doubt, an effective lyricist.

Her storytelling is smooth and the melodies soft and beautiful on the ear and yet The Red Side of the Moon ends up being rather prosaic as a whole. Woodruff whizzes past too many crucial developments, and her characters would benefit from more exploration.

The foreshadowing is also too on the nose for the already cliché-ridden plot. Elinor Peregrin and Tindall herself offer dainty performances as Beth and Ellen, but there's not much room for subtlety in Woodruff's book. Right when the stroke of the hour approaches, there we have the long-awaited emotional climax. Peregrin and Tindall finally conquer their narrative arc and deliver the only real tear-jerking moment in the piece.

Beth has gone back to Ellen after five years of fame, alcohol, and pure celebrity rebellion. Meanwhile, Ellen has settled into small-town life. They agree to have Beth sing at Ellen's open mic (which mirrors their very first introduction) and the result is "See You Again", a heartfelt, emotional ballad. This little nugget of gold offers proof that the musical has the chops to really go somewhere.
With some polishing and a longer running time, The Red Side of the Moon could go from a lesbian wannabe Once to a well-rounded, smoothly-written original musical all its own.

The Red Side of the Moon runs at The Actors' Church until 17 July.

Photography Credit: Scoundrel Eye (Matt Hunter)

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