Moonchild Theatre Company stages an impressive first production of a new play that captures many important issues in today’s world, by personifying likeable planets, comets and moons.
The New Horizons probe lands on Pluto in 2006 and brings bad news for the planet, who is currently having a party which no one has turned up to, except for his best friend Charon. The probe that arrives bears news from NASA telling PLUTO that he’s no longer a planet. He’s now labelled a ‘Dwarf Planet’ which throws Pluto into total chaos, “I’ve been conned into hosting my own funeral”. He’s confused about his identity and has only Charon (and a stripper she hired), to cheer him up and help him to understand.
“Pluto: The subject of much confusion,” as his friend Charon puts it, is mirroring people in our society who have things decided for them, often by men in power who cannot even begin to understand their situation.
The production touches on a fair amount of social and political issues, maybe too many to completely be sure of its message. The staging is sparse but it works, due to the dark walls of the tiny Baron’s Court Theatre, giving you a feeling of deep space.
Callum O’Brien takes Pluto and turns his story into a perfect metaphor for issues such as labelling others, accepting people for who they are and feeling lonely. His direction is clear, fresh and ideal for millennials who would love to see their first play but are daunted by big Shakespearian productions.
The stripper scene is hilariously awkward. The overall humour of the play manages to cover up many of the issues and problems in today’s society. Liam Joseph’s Saturn impression is brilliant and draws the audience on his side. He brings Pluto to life and turns him into a character that you like instantly. He’s not just a planet but a man with a heart and soul.
Charon, played by Charlotte Price is extremely gripping and intriguing. You find yourself hanging to every word during her monologue about her friendship to Pluto. She simply leaves you wanting more.
Pluto might not be as smooth sailing as a West End production might be, but as a brand new play, it definitely is a strong first production for the Moonchild Theatre Company who’ve managed to capture the current issues perfectly.
Pluto runs at Baron’s Court Theatre until 23 April and will transfer to the Cockpit Theatre from 14 August until 17 August.
A new theatre company has landed in London. The Moonchild Theatre Company is staging its first play Pluto at the Baron’s Court Theatre, starting 18 April.
The two co-founders Liam Joseph and Callum O’Brien met as Front of House staff at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Liam, whose background is theatre and acting and Callum who studied film, teamed up and not only co-found their theatre company but also created their first production. Callum wrote the script and is directing the play with Liam producing and starring in it. They both have a passion for space and astronomy and are interested in current affairs; socially and politically. Liam had already paid for the space at the Baron’s Court Theatre, so he asked Callum to write him a play.
“Pluto was an alignment of planets”, says Callum.
“When I was writing about space, at the same time I was reading an article on North Carolina passing a law in 2016 that makes you use the bathroom that you were born into. So, if you’re transgender that causes confusion. It was passed by a bunch of people who would never see the effect it would have on the community.”
He continues: “I was thinking about space and I was thinking about this story. People who have had their identity defined by people who do not know them and it’s quite similar to Pluto, who was a planet but is no longer a planet and it was defined for “him” based on people who have never been to the planet. I took these two stories and married them and we’ve created this unusual piece of work, but it works.”
“It could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, we deal with politics, we deal with friendship, depression and you could take it literally and it could be a story of planets.”
The two criticise the London theatre industry. “A lot of shows nowadays cater to a very specific or older audience.”
Callum adds: “I think new writing can cater more towards a millennial audience. A lot that Pluto deals with is frustration, your voice has been stolen from you, your agency has been deprived, you cannot speak out for what you want to and it reflects the way millennials are portrayed as; numb observers.”
As director, Callum wants to make Pluto and turn it into an iconic object that could be the “figurehead of the LGBT cause.” However, he is worried about trying to tackle too many issues in their production. “We run the risk of writing something that could be about everything and nothing.”
Unlike many other theatre companies, Moonchild Theatre Company caters to millennials; “I’d rather make theatre accessible, but a lot of shows follow the older generation, and the tickets are so expensive.”
“All great artistic movements cater to the young and it’s foolish to overlook them, they will inherit the world one day. What you teach them now, that’s what they’ll take with them later in life and if you can get them interested in theatre and art now, hopefully there will be a future for art, especially in a world with an administration that cut art funding and pride things like guns and war.”
Looking at the news and everything that’s been going on recently the play seems to “come at the right time. I think there’s something happening right now, something is going to happen soon, the young people are beginning to regroup and feel there is this slight injustice against something.”
The two recount how everything has happened at the same time and how the timing of meeting at the Harold Pinter couldn’t have been better. “It’s like a volcano, everything has come at once, LGBT communities, Trump and technology. It never would’ve happened hadn’t we worked in the theatre together. Liam and I wouldn’t have met. Charlotte Price, who is also in Pluto also works at the Harold Pinter as front of house, so does Aimee Leigh the production manager and Giuliana Davolio the set designer for Pluto.”
“We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a supportive venue”
Their manager Rachel is interested in what their doing, as well as ATG. “It makes it worth what we’re doing, to know that your manager is interested in what you’re doing outside of work, it’s really warming and quite rare, not many theatres have that kind of support. She’s been so nice, she’s let us put the flyers around the building and helps us put them in other theatres as well”, says producer Liam Joseph.
“It’s encouraging to know that someone in such a high position cares about new writing and helping her staff .”
The rehearsal for the play is going well according to Callum. Even though this is a stressful time, he finds it rewarding. “It’s the most interesting learning curve for me, knowing how to develop the script. All four of us have fine tuned it and arranged it and moulded this play to be something that we all want to be part of.”
In the future the team wants to create and produce theatre as well as film. “We also want to look at merchandising our company, because we feel like we’re very sell-able”, says Liam. “We’ve got a cool logo.”
“Creatively we would like to go off in every branch in media and art.”
After Pluto, the theatre company will potentially put up an exhibit of pictures from Pluto’s set and production in an art gallery in Camden. “That’s what interested us, because theatre is never looked at through still images, with the exhibition, you meet theatre and film in the middle.”
Help Moonchild Theatre Company stage their first production and donate to their IndieGOGO page.