views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

To the Moon... and Back... and Back...
Etcetera Theatre
20th August 2018


Publicity image for To the Moon... and Back... and Back...

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

There's a PR I know who swears there's no such thing as bad publicity. All publicity in his opinion is good publicity. It's not a view I usually agree with, however, if you can manage to take back control of a viral news story of your social media post begging your friends to find you a man because you're tired of being single, all power to you, I say. If you search for Rachel Salisbury, no longer do you see stories about her, but stories written by her, all publicising her one-woman show To the Moon... and Back... and Back. Salisbury may have momentarily let the press control her, but now she's controlling the press and that in itself is praiseworthy. Maybe that PR has a point after all...

Whilst few of us have been picked on by the media in the same way as Salisbury, if you had to choose just one adjective to describe her show, it would undoubtedly be "relatable". The quest for old-fashioned love using modern-fangled technology seems to have woven itself into a lot of shows this summer. We just can't seem to keep ourselves from swiping, talking about swiping or writing about swiping. Salisbury claims some of the dates she went on were so bad you couldn't make them up. That doesn't make her tales unique though - just true. I mean, which single, female Londoner hasn't been on a date with a monologuing narcissistic actor? Or idly wondered how to completely reinvent herself to ensnare her current date despite not actually being remotely attracted to that person, then taken a reality check? The laughs she gets aren't always because the material is fresh (a shame, given the uniqueness of her viral adventures). No, we giggle because we've all been there and we're laughing at a slightly yet broadly similar bad experience. She reminds us of our own mishaps.

Music is used by director Danae Cambrook to create dramatic tension and is effective to a point, though it does lose its subtlety once noticed. However, the use of a clothes rail on stage is deeply clever, allowing Salisbury to shrug on and off a variety of different outfits, with the discarded clothing on the floor visually representing another failed dating experience. All of the skirts and dresses are floaty and feminine, either in pale, pastel colours or enthusiastically bright, optimistic floral prints. Her character's hopeless romanticism is mirrored in each item hung up and flung on the floor. As each date ends in disaster and a bit of that happy, girlish wardrobe crumples in a sad heap, it mimics that little part of her soul that is lost every time she wastes a few hours on yet another poorly matched suitor. Oh, girlfriend. We've all been there...

Writing a one-woman show about a fairly likeable, inoffensive character based primarily on herself is very reminiscent of Miranda Hart with her sitcom, er, Miranda. Salisbury's Rachel employs the same trick of suddenly turning to the audience to break the fourth wall with an acknowledgement of just how ridiculous it all is. It's perfectly pleasant, but if there is one criticism to level, it's that it feels rather too safe. You can't help but think Salisbury must have more in her to put into a show. With that said, I guess the gap between going viral and staging her show is quite short, and she seems far too at peace with herself now to remember the intensity of all the disgustingly grimy low points of online dating. The problem with hindsight is it allows far too much of the anger to cool, and that's often what makes shows like this raucously funny and even more - and I'm sorry, there really is no better word for it - relatable.

Assuming you're not one of the smug couples who married their childhood sweetheart and who never had to endure the horror of digitally dating in this brave new world, this is a show that you will identify with and laugh with. Die-hard romantics will find hope in Salisbury's writing and everyone will find some humour there. We wish the real Salisbury all the very best - and hope she doesn't find a crazy woman in the attic any time soon.

To the Moon... and Back... and Back... opened on 18th August and runs until 22nd August 2018 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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