Living Like a Moth is a play that tries very hard to do many things – dark comedy, Beckett-esque absurdity, profound philosophising – and doesn’t quite manage any of them. This is the second short play by Sean Dennis Langtree after his debut A Face That Fits was staged at last year’s Fringe, and despite being presented as a psychological exploration of reality and imagination, it is essentially an allegory of one man’s battle with cancer. Over the short duration of the piece we see our hero harassed and abused by the unhinged representations of the key players associated with the disease (complete with groan-provoking anagrammatic names) and clumsily reflect on the meaning of life. The intention is obscured considerably, however, by a number of seemingly unrelated thematic threads – the concept of art is assigned weirdly to the big C herself and of course there is the constant, slightly juvenile, preoccupation with love and sex.
Given that the material itself is a little on the weak side, the production is lifted to watchable bordering on entertaining heights by the cast, known collectively as Blazing Hyena, who do a fine job of making the room feel that there might be genuine characters behind these abstract symbols. Lara Wauchope as Ms Hemco (that’s chemo, in case you didn’t spot it) is a particular standout, with an energy and gleeful spark without which the production would be much worse off. There’s even a surprising amount of believable chemistry felt between James Boal as Mr N Pattie and Kate Foley-Scott as Ms Runes (enjoy teasing those names out for yourselves) considering the former is unconscious for most of their interactions, which is entirely thanks to Foley-Scott’s convincing portrayal of genuine sweetness that could so easily have been unbearably irritating.
The rather close, deep-toned setting of the Wee Red Bar is a good fit for the piece at least, suiting the idea that all the events are probably taking place inside Mr N Pattie’s body, or head. The worn, dark red leather of the sofa that makes up the main prop item does make it feel a little like a prolonged nightmarish therapy session, which is actually one of the more effective choices employed here.
Living Like a Moth features a bright, talented cast let down by contrived writing but is saved from being too tiresome by a handful of amusing moments and a well-received jab at chino wearers.