Translunar Paradise is proof that fringe theatre can cross over without becoming mainstream. Produced by Theatre Ad Infinitum and developed with the Lowry, this stunning and original piece began life in the studio space in Salford. Since then, it has toured and has also been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, winning three awards.
From the very opening scene, you can see why it has touched a nerve with so many people. Imagine the opening montage sequence of the Pixar/Disney film Up juxtaposed with scenes from the hit silent movie - The Artist. Add a pinch of the quirky magic that makes the theatre company Kneehigh so innovative and that's Translunar Paradise.
Using movement to explore old age, mortality and letting go, the piece is inspired by WB Yeats' poem The Tower. With only masks (beautifully designed by Victoria Beaton) and several small props, two talented performers George Mann and Deborah Pugh take the audience on a journey - a beautiful and poignant journey through dance, mime and memory.
Kim Heron plays the accordian throughout the piece - giving the piece a soundtrack - humming and moving the narrative along. This is very effective but now that the piece is reaching out to a bigger audience than first imagined, another musician would add so much more. Mann and Pugh are both excellent - proving that actions do indeed, speak louder than words.
Translunar Paradise is not everyone's cup of green tea. I found the piece emotionally charged, filled with bittersweet moments and some very funny scenes also. It explores grief with grace and dignity and George Martin's direction and writing is brave, yet inspired. At times, the scenes become slightly repetitious and the drama could easily be cut down to one hour. I did see some patrons getting restless as the lack of recorded music or other musicians - as it does become slightly samey after a while. Add the fact that the narrative is fairly cyclic and this is clearly off putting to some.
Without bells and whistles, this clever and touching play is highly effective. But if it is to continue visiting bigger venues, it would benefit from some slight reshaping to help with sight lines and pleasing a larger crowd. I loved it though, as on a wet and cold June evening, it acted as the perfect tonic, as it is incredibly heartwarming.