Jane Asher Moon Tiger The Rose Theatre Kingston
Deborah Harris reviews Moon Tiger, showing at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until Mar 1
Moon Tiger is a slow-burning coil of mosquito repellent which disintegrates into a pile of grey ash. Its heady scent evokes the memories of barmy nights spent in war-torn Egypt.
Written by Penelope Lively (born in Cairo in 1933), Moon Tiger won the Booker Prize in 1987. Her previous work has also been short-listed on two occasions for the Booker Prize. Penelope has a fascination with memory and how past events influence the present.
As the play opens, the main protagonist, Jane Asher (Claudia Hampton) lies dying in a hospital bed. She creates a rich, colourful tapestry of her life as a historian and mother by recounting her life events with a journey through the passage of time from cradle to grave.
In the first lines, Claudia informs the nurse, “I’m writing a history of the world.” Naturally, the nurse dismisses her announcement as the ramblings of a dying women and responds, “Well, my goodness. Upsey a bit dear, there’s a good girl and then I’ll get you a nice cup of tea.” It’s a sad fact of life that if we’re lucky, we’ll end our days peacefully in a similar way, wrapped in warm blankets and swamped in tea.
Claudia’s unique life journey includes her adventures as a pioneering, female war correspondent. She also finds and loses love after a brief affair with a tank commander Tom Southern (played by the dashing Tim Delap). In her role she explores miscarriage and incest, while coming to terms with the harsh fact of being a less than perfect mother.
The highly compelling narrative zig-zags between the past and the future relying on the skill of the talented cast to portray changes in era through body language and dynamic character shifts.
Claudia’s death is both beautiful and soulful. As she reaches the dying embers of her life the author describes her spirit departing from the world as, “thistledown wafted down on the breeze of history into oblivion.”
This was a mesmerising and soul-searching performance which left me feeling tearful and numb.
Moon Tiger shows at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until Mar 1
Visit to book tickets rosetheatrekingston.org