Review: The Chronicles of Atom and Luna at Unity Theatre ****
If The Chronicles of Atom and Luna seems familiar to Unity regulars, there’s good reason.
The new play – being toured by Essex-based company Funnelwick Limb - is directed by Nina Hajiyianni who was at the helm of a series of Christmas shows for the Hope Street venue (including the enchanting Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf), while former Unity artistic director Matthew Linley produces.
Springing from the fertile imagination of poet, performer and playwright Murray Lachlan Young, this mysterious and thoughtful fable carries its watchers deep into a tangled tale of fairies, woodsmen, wolves and witchcraft.
Imagine the Brothers Grimm meets Harry Potter, with a hint of 1970s children’s TV and an ominous sprinkling of George Orwell for good measure.
Eleven-year-old twins Atom (Farrell Cox) and Luna (Becca Bindang) live in a glass palace on the edge of a forest, watched over by the all-seeing glass ball and governed by a set of oppressive rules from their stony-hearted mother.
When she takes off, leaving the siblings to fend for themselves, hunger and curiosity drive them into the arms first of the strange, childlike Iffley Sney (Alex Scott Fairley) and then on a daring journey into the depths of the forbidden forest to seek help from Old Mother Redbeard (Fran Burgoyne).
The adventure broadens their physical and mental horizons as they discover more about the world outside their glass walls – and about themselves and what they are capable of as well.
Lachlan Young’s script, which mixes dramatic action with storytelling, is an absolute delight; Fairley in particular delivers the storytelling element with a sinuous clarity, while Burgoyne successfully encapsulates a centuries old fairytale figure.
Bek Palmer’s strikingly simple set, a rising crescent path against a luminous full moon, creates a little amphitheatre for the story which mixes human and puppet action.
And it is neatly transformed into Old Mother Redbeard’s rustic forest home from where the smell of ‘mushrooms for tea’ (the company, joyfully, has a ‘forager in residence’ on the show’s credits) wafts over the auditorium.
The only slightly off note comes in the closing moments when the cast addresses the audience directly to deliver a moral of the story. It feels a little heavy handed compared to the lightness of touch exhibited in the rest of the show.
Meanwhile the production is accompanied by some imaginative complementary content and activities for young audience members including extra magical Atom and Luna tales on headsets and a vintage telephone.
Top: Atom (Farrell Cox) and Luna (Becca Bindang) in The Chronicles of Atom and Luna. Photo by Luke Witcomb.