Red Side of the Moon, part of the Iris Theatre Festival, features a stunning score by Kathryn Tindall, sung equally beautifully by Tindall and her cast mate, Elinor Peregrin. Performed outside in the St Paul’s Churchyard in Covent Garden, it takes us on a rags to riches journey as Beth (played by Peregrin) becomes an international pop star after humble, open-mic beginnings.
The chemistry between the pair is delightful to watch. Not only is there a genuinely exciting spark as they flirt with each other, but vocally they are impeccably suited. Peregrin’s voice is at times earthier and lower, whilst Tindall’s soars delicately above. We delight as we watch them become friends, lovers and musical partners and I have goosebumps when they sing together or for each other. The writing of the music and lyrics is superb too, with clever repetition of words. Beth asks Ellen (played by Tindall) ‘what if?’ — what if she takes a risk, quits her job as a bartender and joins her on her tour? Later on, Ellen touchingly sings the song ‘What If’, wondering if they can still be musically successful if they are open about their relationship.
The sound is sadly a little hit or miss. There is disruptive feedback between mics, which scares the actors away from getting near each other at times. There is some really good sound design, with snippets from radio stations and TV gossip channels sharing reports of Beth’s astronomical rise and downwards spiral. This really helps to create a realistic impression of an extremely fantastical situation. However, again, there is an issue with the technical aspect of sound, as it doesn’t feel as though Peregrin’s voice is supported enough at points of the show. Beth reaches a rather climactic point as she struggles with the pressures of her success. After the soundscape of news reports builds, her voice sounds weak and unimportant by comparison — which is entirely the fault of the tech, as it doesn’t support Peregrin’s lighter voice effectively.
Unfortunately, the writing of the script is nowhere near as good as Tindall’s score. It is so hard to pull off a narrative that tracks such astronomical success and Red Side of the Moon does not manage to do so. There are clichés that reek of amateur fantasies of fame and success. The show being just an hour long, the plot does have to move quickly but devices could be used to elude to the passage of time. Instead, Beth and Ellen wonder if they will ‘get big’ before their first ever gig and minutes later have a record label with a posh, stereotypical music exec threatening to drop them for being gay. Phrases such as, ‘what if we lose everything’ and ‘they can’t stop us going on stage’ attempt melodrama but fail to generate any actual sympathy or tension in me. However, Peregrin and Tindall’s talent is undeniable and at the end of the show, I am humming along to the beautiful ‘See You Again’, hoping that I will indeed be seeing the pair again.
Red Side of the Moon is playing at Iris Theatre until 17 July 2021. For more information and tickets, see Iris Theatre’s website.