David Kerby-Kendall’s second play The Moon is Halfway to Heaven lives and breathes its celebration of friendship. Jamie (Lucas Hare) and Paul (Kerby-Kendall himself) grow up and old together. We visit them through the decades from the '20s to 2010, always at their favourite spot - a bench in the woods. Their characters form the plot and we watch their friendship set like cement over a lifetime.
Paul is an opera-loving, gentle intellectual, who can’t quite free himself from the shackles of society’s expectations, while Jamie is a football fan, dreamer and ladies’ man who really does not want to grow up. I find it hard to believe in these two as inseparable soul mates. Here, they somehow balance each other out; in reality they would surely drift apart.
Special praise goes to Paul Burgess’ set, in particular the use of the moon as a portal that rewinds us through the decades as iconic footage dances across it and it is here, that most historic detail lies. Both Hare and Kerby-Kendall manage respectably in their various guises, particularly during the characters’ adulthood and middle age – although less of a stretch of the imagination here.
Apart from the obvious challenge of having the same actor play both a seven and an 89 year-old, the play sets itself an extremely tricky task of presenting the audience with not only six different snapshots of these characters’ lives but also of six different eras in British history. That’s a lot to pack into each scene. Sometimes the effect is a little clumsy and clichéd when a personal milestone collides with a historical era; Jamie’s sexist rant to newly-divorced Paul during the swinging sixties for example.
The main jolts come from the language, which at times feels heavy-handed and at others, inaccurate. So whilst the young boys repeatedly signify their approval with an enthusiastic “Wizo”, the 89 year-old talks about “feeling rubbish” when hungover: absolutely not the vocab of an octogenarian. It challenges your belief in the characters.
Despite these cracks, there is a genuine sentiment behind this play that makes it touching. I had myself down as more of a cynic.