It’s a shame when great theatre doesn’t make an appearance for quite a few years. However, Errol John’s play Moon on a Rainbow Shawl is back after more than 20 years, in a new revival created by the National Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company. I managed to catch it during its stop at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.
The play follows the hopes and dreams of a group of people living on the island of Tobago. Each of them has their own story, which gradually come together to present a vision of lost hope and ambition. The narrative itself is seamless, with the vibrant and honest characters moving it along in a natural and succinct fashion. The time is divided well amongst each of the characters, allowing the audience to successfully empathise with them, which will later allow us to understand the pain that is brought about by quashed dreams and ambitions.
The play reflects the context of its time of writing, with the 40s and 50s pulsing through the simple and naturalistic set, giving full rein to the characters to breathe life into the production. This stark difference in time period allows the audience to understand the complexities at the time, and ultimately allows us to understand the states of mind of the characters.
While the issues surrounding the play sound a little dark, the play has its fair share of warm, comic and touching moments which really reach out to the audience. These moments are superbly presented, thanks to the equally warm and rich characters of the play. The dialogue itself is natural and engrossing, alongside well-choreographed moments of physical violence that really make the characters shine against the backdrop of the narrative and its context.
As mentioned earlier, the simple and naturalistic set completely illuminates the characters and their emotional states, which provides the fuel on which the narrative runs. The sound and lighting help to represent different moments in the story, with pathetic fallacy being a key component in representing the mood and atmosphere in the piece. Ultimately, the set creates a natural and honest world which once again allows the characters to truly flesh out John’s narrative. The company work well together, creating a tight ensemble that truly embodies a sense of unity.
Moon on a Rainbow Shawl is an interesting and engaging piece of theatre. It manages to illustrate and raise important social issues regarding hopes and dreams with both its characters and its narrative. It is warm, comic and touching.
Moon on a Rainbow Shawl is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 15 February. For more information and tickets, see the West Yorkshire Playhouse website.