Last week I met with Liam Joseph and Callum O’Brien, who together have formed Moonchild. Their first venture is a play called PLUTO, which has a limited run at Barons Court Theatre next week before transferring to the Cockpit Theatre for the Camden Fringe in August.
Their aim with the company is to “create politically and socially stimulating theatre”, with an emphasis on the social aspect. Ideally what they want is to get people questioning things more and increasing their awareness of world events; there has been a significant amount of politically linked theatre over recent months, which Callum wonders if people might be a bit tired of, but he believes that “all great art should be a reflection of society”. He adds that the West End and mainstream theatre don’t necessarily cater as much for people like him, so hopefully Moonchild can redress that balance.
They’re also obviously keen to build a sustainable company, with hopes of producing all different forms of art, from films to exhibitions. Callum has come from a background in film, so is relishing the challenge of bringing his skill set to a theatre production (a medium more familiar to him since he started working Front of House at the Harold Pinter Theatre) – he’d like to “combine the aesthetics of film with the stage”.
The obvious statement of intent is their “visually stunning” poster for PLUTO, which really does stand out from both fringe and West End competition. Designed by Dave Bird, it gives some subtle clues about the play’s content and you could say is a piece of art in itself. Both Liam and Callum are quite visual learners are quite visual learners, so they place great importance on this aspect of promoting their work – “why wouldn’t you take that extra time to make a very good poster?”, asks Liam. He makes the very good point that you wouldn’t leave any other aspect of the project to the last minute or devote such little thought to it, so why not place greater importance on the poster? After all, it could make the all the difference in someone making the decision to go and see the show.
As you might have already guessed, the play itself (written by Callum) is about Pluto. Set in 2006, Pluto has just been reclassified as a dwarf planet – he finds out this life-changing news at a house party, where the only other guest is his moon, Charon. Between the two of them they try and get to grips with Pluto’s new status and how it will affect him from this point on.
One source of inspiration was the North Carolina bathroom laws, which restrict transgender people to using bathrooms that correspond to the sex stated on their birth certificate. Rather than them being allowed to live their lives as the gender they most identify with, they’re forced to use the bathroom society expects them to. The parallel is drawn with Pluto’s fate being decided for him, when all he wants is to be a planet. The play covers a broad scope of themes, including LGBT rights, mental health and friendship.
“It’s as if the world is making our play very relevant,” says Callum. Only a couple of weeks ago Trump brought the Bathroom bill back into the public eye – and this year there has been a fairly consistent stream of discoveries from the TRAPPIST-1 system. So people are interested in space again, and perhaps the most significant theme of the play is back in the public consciousness.
They have just begun tech, following a fruitful and enjoyable rehearsal period. Liam and Callum and both hugely grateful to ATG and particularly their manager Rachel Lund; she’s helped them out so much along the way, from contributions to their crowdfunding campaign, to allowing them rehearsal space in the bars at the Harold Pinter Theatre, and also assisted in spreading the word. She’s gone “above and beyond, in true ATG fashion”.
And beyond PLUTO? Liam would really love to make a “heavily dystopian short film” and tell the story through music rather than dialogue, perhaps showing Trump experiencing success but the consequence being that the future almost regressed to medieval times. In contrast, Callum would like to take advantage of the success television is experiencing and make a sitcom – potentially as a follow-up to the 1960s horror film Rosemary’s Baby, set in our times and showing the child grown up, surrounded by satanists. He’s interested in the artistic options open to such a project, as it allows you to follow characters over a longer period of time and give them different scenarios to deal with.
But for now their thoughts are firmly in the present and continuing with their PLUTO preparations. It really does sound like an intriguing production, and their ambitions for Moonchild’s future are very refreshing. The countdown has begun, and I can’t wait to see the first step in their journey.
PLUTO runs at Barons Court Theatre from 18-23 April 2017 – tickets are available from firstname.lastname@example.org (state your name, date of performance and number of tickets). It transfers to the Cockpit Theatre from 14-17 August 2017 as part of the Camden Fringe.