BEAST ON THE MOON
by Richard Kalinoski.
The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW1E 9ED to 23 February 2019.
Tues – Sun 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval
TICKETS: 01223 357 851
Review: William Russell 31 January
Surviving genocide and building a future
In the week that Neil McPherson, the Finborough artistic director, got the Critics’ Circle prize for contributions to theatre for the work done at this 50 seat Earls Court theatre it has come up with a fine play superbly staged, directed and performed – Beast on the Moon. Written in 1995 it arrives garlanded with awards over the decades and on the evidence of Jelena Budimir’s production they were thoroughly deserve. The Armenian genocide pg 1915-18 is one of the great crimes against humanity, but one that not much is known about as, apart from anything else, the great powers of the day had other things on their minds and the Turkey of Attaturk was different from that of the Ottomans who had for years been persecuting the Armenians. So Kalinoski’s play has much to reveal and much that is relevant today because the survivors of genocide, of persecution and cruelty are with us still – there are some 68.5 million forcible displaced people worldwide.
In Milwaukee nineteen year old Aram is welcoming his refugee mail order bride, fifteen year old Seta. He had survived the genocide, losing his family, and managed to get to the United States where he has set up a business as a photographer. He treasures a photograph of his family, in which he has deleted all the faces of the dead, and is devout, and intent on founding his family again. He has paid for Seta, an orphan in a refugee home, to come to be his wife. We see how this difficult relationship develops, and what happens when Seta later on in the marriage – she cannot have children – befriends Vincent, a Catholic boy living on the streets who has fled the institution in which he has been placed to escape an abusive priest. The story of Aram and Seta over the years from 1921 to 1933 is told by the now elderly Vincent. It is a story about a relationship, initially abusive, which does grow into love over the years, about how both of them face up to their demons – what happened during the genocide, which, when revealed – rape, crucifixion, beheading – is chilling and makes one reflect on how fragile social order can be. These were and are people like us, like the man in the seat next to one, the woman across the aisle. What happened to them could happen to anybody.
George Jovanovic creates a splendidly confused Aram, authoritarian, muddled, relying on the scriptures as his law, determined to breed with his new wife come what may and incapable of understanding her, while Zarima McDermott grows from a frightened waif to a compassionate adult who has made the world she ended up in work for her. As for Hayward B Morse, given that he is as elderly as the narrator his performance of the teenage Vincent is spellbinding. The story teller and the boy are not always played by the same actor and the decision really works wonderfully well. The word unmissable gets used loosely, but this really should be in any serious theatre goer’s diary.
Aram: George Jovanovic.
Seta: Zarima McDermott.
Gentleman/Vincent: Hayward B Morse.
Director: Jelena Budimir.
Set & Costume Designer: Sarah Jane Booth.
Lighting Designer: Matt Cater.
Sound Designer: Joe Dines.
Dialect Coach: Jamie Matthewman.
Production Photography: Scott Rylander.