In the original tale of What The Moon Saw by Hans Christian Andersen, a little boy has “not a single friend” save the “familiar face” of the moon itself. The moon vows to spend a portion of each evening shining through the boy’s rooftop window, communicating a snapshot of the wider world as seen from above, so that the boy might “paint the scenes” and thus stave off loneliness. Lovely, right? Actually, it’s intensely weird, a lesson for the boy that life is desperately unfair, hardships great, and that “behind the broad fragrant leaves lurks the goddess of Death”.
2Faced Dance tells it somewhat differently. In their production, all that (obviously) remains is the sense of a relationship between a boy and the moon, a silent character, dressed in white and silver, who resides gracefully in an aerial hoop.
Sam Buswell plays Jack (the boy protagonist), which is a truly odd casting choice. He doesn’t look or move at all like a child, or have the facial expressions of one, either. He’s a wonderful dancer though, as is Louis Parker Evans, who plays literally everyone else that Jack meets on his series of imaginative/magical adventures. Putting aside the desire to know what is actually happening at any given time, there is much brilliant spectacle, with lots that is highly emotive and atmospheric. The stage – originally monochromatic, with thick white outlines, like dogma for kids – becomes more colourful in accordance.
“Life is more complete when there is colour in it” is “the message at the heart of the production” according to director Tamsin Fitzgerald. For all that, this really isn’t the most graspable of shows. There is a dragon whom it’s hard to know what to feel about. An interesting (if not overwhelmingly impressive) piece of acrobatics, okay – but what does it signify? Why is it there? Is it scary, is it friendly?
Aspects of What The Moon Saw are truly fabulous. The actors are there as you arrive at the venue, taking you into the world of the show before you’ve even been seated. At the end, the children are invited onstage to meet and take photos with the actors, draw on the chalkboard sets, and show off their own dance moves. 2Faced Dance is an all-male troupe, and in moments each of them often display strength. In this sense, the show works wonderfully to dispel the persistent notion that dancing is an intrinsically feminine activity. The production is conceptual, the dance sequences are impressive, and the staging itself is extremely thoughtful. As beautiful, and elusive, as the moon itself.