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Soft, The Moon Rose
Etcetera Theatre
8th August 2016

★★★☆☆

Publicity photograph for Soft, The Moon Rose

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

With the exception of new builds, people never simply view houses, they view homes and both criticise and fall in love with other people's memories. Given the amount of cash that's involved, you would think house buying would be treated as a clinical, emotionless decision, but it's always curiously personal. Having had plenty of strange experiences, I always try to bypass the owners with an appointment with an estate agent who's less emotionally invested in the sale, however that plan doesn't always work, as is the case in new play Soft, The Moon Rose.

Enthusiastic young buyer Jennifer (Joanna Faith Habershon) has set up a viewing for a lovely old property in North London with an agent who is nowhere to be seen. Undeterred, she presses on with her plans to look around, enlisting the help of owner-occupiers Rupert (Ishai Albert Jacob) and Rose (Emma Nanson). Jennifer's fiancé Jonah (Geofferson Rainsford) keeps wandering off, leaving her to largely face Rupert and Rose on her own. There's something unsettling about Rupert and Rose's behaviour, and it's clear that Jonah isn't as committed to the sale as she is, however Jennifer is the sort of woman who has a five-year plan and she's determined to make things happen.

At its core, Soft, the Moon Rose is an intriguing mystery which invites you to figure out what exactly is wrong with the picture in front of you and unravel all the different elements to it. Penned by Habershon, it's perhaps unsurprising that Jennifer is the most credible character, written delicately and brimming full of hopes and fears. Jonah seems perpetually distracted, and whilst the character's behaviour isn't always as finely nuanced, Jennifer's reaction to what he says and does is far more complex. Sometimes it isn't just what she says, it's the expression as we see her processing his words, preparing how to respond or making a mental filing note to pick up with him later. She's certainly the most sympathetic character - whether director Manuel Bau has teased this out of her script or she's simply playing the part she had envisaged, it's unclear. However, props to whichever one of them is responsible.

Nanson is wonderfully confused and distanced, portraying a character who could merely be a bit of an oddball or mentally ill. There's a lot of ambiguity to her performance, adding to the unanswered questions about why she's packing and selling up when she doesn't really seem to want to leave. Treasured possessions and boxed, unboxed and there's a lot of anxious pacing going on. Jacob's silky soft but clear voice and relaxed demeanour puts him at odds with Nanson's distressed character, making the relationship difficult to ascertain. Although at times it does feel that he's a touch too mysterious, with Bau letting the realism slip, on the whole, the actors do establish the setting well.

Although the production is only 55 minutes, it feels like it loses a bit of momentum in the middle, despite the very strong opening. The ending does have some unpredictability to it, with Soft, The Moon Rose a mysterious drama that will keep you hanging on for a resolution.

Soft, The Moon Rose opened on 8th August and runs until 12th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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