Books have for centuries, meant different things to different people. They are a source of information, an opportunity for solace, or perhaps a way to escape. For Keisha however they are love letters; a means of communication between her and her estranged father.
A man of many names and versions of himself; she wonders if the kaleidoscope of his identity will ever stop twirling. Will she ever actually know him?
Played by Manchester-based Keisha Thompson, this solo performance is in itself a reminder of the loneliness of a woman who; able to recount so many friends and relatives names, struggles to find anyone to help her in her time of need.
As we move deeper into the month of December, the atmosphere in her personal life is as grim as the weather. Misery however is not the message of this play, and as clever musical numbers pepper the scenes, we are moved from laughter, to tears and back again.
This production is not afraid to tackle race, religion and sex, and does so in the same honest and slapdash way our protagonist has had to deal with them; genuine confusion and an overload of information.
As the story unfolds we learn more about the sub-groups and societies of Manchester; how language preferences mean you are served first in a shop, saying ‘Happy Birthday’ can be a pleasantry or an insult, and that some people take their wisdom from more than one holy book.
The pace and delivery is not just clever, it is meaningful. As Keisha takes us from Manchester to the moon (and back), we never lose the thread of her earnest journey; to find her dad. Cleverly though, as she draws closer to him, she sadly drifts further from her own self.
This bitter-sweet narrative is a credit to director Benji Reid. There is a tasteful rawness portrayed that –thankfully– avoids the quick wins of shock-factor controversy. As the pages continue to turn, we arrive at our closing chapter and with it, a reminder that we are in the presence of a class actor. Man on the Moon may initially appear as a story of the lost and found; yet the audience will soon come to realise this is, in fact, a tale of heroism and true love.
Man on the Moon – A STUN and Contact Co-commision. Supported by Arts Council England, Apples & Snakes and Slate.