Outside, on the Uxbridge Road, the coldest Spring for 50 years is reaching a shivering climax, but tucked away inside the Bush Theatre Declan Greene’s Moth revolves around heat, light and high summer. Greene’s play arrives direct from the influential High Tide Festival in Suffolk, and is exactly the compelling, ambitious new writing the Bush exists to stage.
The Bush’s attic space is a tiny hotbox, where space is at such a premium that the audience are warned to tuck their feet in. The attic is uncomfortable, claustrophic and exciting. Within touching distance are two teenagers, Sebastian and Claryssa, who are alienated, immature and depressed, just like teenagers in fact. But, while other 14-year olds perhaps see visions of robots and angels, maybe not everyone keeps a moth in a jar sent by St Sebastian, or hands out flyers reading “The End is Nigh”.
Moth slides effectively from hilarious, semi-affectionate stupidity (“Don’t call me a bitch, you little bitch”) to deeply unpleasant bullying (which uses Facebook, uniquely for the stage, as an entirely convincing part of the story), then on to rifts, spiralling fantasy and disintegrating reality. The direction, from Prasanna Puwanarajah makes maximum use of minimum space, with clever touches including an x-shaped disco lighting rig and a moth that pings gently inside its jar.
However, the main achievement of Moth is the synthesis between writing and performance. Greene ingeniously overlaps characters and scenes, as Jordan Mifsúd and Stacey Gregg play themselves, their parents, schoolmates, bullies, teachers, robots, religious visionaries, St Sebastian, the police and each other. Mifsúd’s performance is so wildly juvenile and awkward that you really can believe he smells of tuna, while Gregg is brilliantly both self-contained and vulnerable, a performer of character and talent.
Moth is an inventive, energetic piece of writing which, although it sometimes struggles with rapid shifts in tone, is worth 70 minutes of anyone’s time. It reveals neon glimpses of hidden interior worlds, and leaves behind strange, lingering images.
Moth is at the Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London W12 8LJ until 8 June. To book click here. Production shot by Bill Knight.