Keisha Thompson’s Man on the Moon: A considered and crafted love letter
Keisha Thompsons’ Man On The Moon, which played at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre this month, is a considered and crafted love-letter to Keisha’s distant father. Through her ‘truth-infused’ play, she communicates with her reclusive father via a proxy of books and symbols, tackling themes from ‘displacement’ to ‘misplaced masculinity’ along the way. The show is generously frank, opening up all the complicated and nuanced elements of the relationship and how this changed over time. It tackles both the sense of care and abandonment towards this hermetic father figure, as he looms over Keisha’s shoulder, haunting the work.
The play opens with a set of numerology charts, which articulate the personalities attached to the father’s changing names. The theme of change – and the struggle against it – animates the play. The numerology charts are an attempt to turn transience and distance into tangible, knowable factors. This attempt to find her footing amidst uncertainty is frustrated, as the common language that the relationships plays out in often fails to communicate effectively.
“I don’t really believe this you know, it’s just interesting”, she says as the play unfolds. A false admission, I think. Perhaps she doesn’t believe rationally in the communication with her father that is conjured up through books, symbols and charts, but her emotional life is a different story altogether. As the play progresses, however, this stubbornness is the first defence that slips away.
The rest of the performance simmers through a hypnotising mix of spoken word and music. The script, especially, rolls so naturally that it feels like a conversation rather than a performance. It feels like Keisha is just telling you these things in her front room.
An underlying sense of anxiousness permeates the play. Uncertainties like, “I can’t assume he’ll like plantain chips just because he’s Jamaican,” and, “Is halal chicken soup a thing?” play out alongside all-too real-life dramas, such as that on the 192 bus route. Keisha masterfully slips the wool of her world over our eyes effortlessly, without us really realising we are fully immersed in her experience. Mancunian humour and an incredibly tangible use of language invite us in.
Short musical interludes provide bitesize palette cleansers, and the simple, minimal theatrics allow the text and Keisha’s earnest voice to shine through. This propels us to the halting climax that aptly slips away from us before we’re ready to leave this imaginative space.
This stunning and simple performance doesn’t need anything but its words and story to stop you in your tracks. Keisha Thompson asserts herself as a multi-talented artist, and one who is deservedly stepping into a national spotlight. Her voice will worm its way into your favourites.