Hosted at That Flower Shop out in Alderley, Me, Maria and the Moon is a cosy affair. It’s a small space which is well suited to the intimate storytelling of The Old Professor and his tale of love and moon exploration. See, the Old Professor is a member of a group of explorers who once a month row out into the middle of the ocean, climb a ladder and then jump to the moon for a bit of the old moon wandering. He also happens to be in love with the titular Maria. Complicating this is that Maria just so happens to be the unhappy wife of the fat Farmer, another explorer. Maria, for her part happens to love the Wild One, a rugged and masculinely perfect specimen of a man who has no love for anyone but the moon itself.
Relating this tale as a one man show, actor Luke Butler inhabits the Old Professor with a fey, nervous energy. From the very beginning he embodies a world-weary old man who now only lives for the memory of his lost love. As he points out, “a story is just a memory until you share it with someone else”. His characterisation strongly reminded me at times of Matt Smith’s Doctor, analytical and mercurial, capable of great passion and love, but also a real potential for thoughtless callousness at times.
While I enjoyed the show overall, the under-development of the minor characters was a bit of a let down. The Farmer, the Wild One and Maria are essentially one-dimensional props throughout the entire show. The Fat Farmer is fat, and Maria’s apparently unwanted husband. That is the entire extent of the character’s development. I can’t even remember if that was his actual name or not. The Wild One is derided as having “the brain of a pea” even though he helps to save them in the end with a bit of bamboo wrangling. He might not be too bright, but he does seem handy to have around in an emergency.
And then there’s Maria. Beautiful, mysterious Maria. The object of the Old Professors’ affections, she’s a bit of a lump to be honest. After becoming stranded on the moon for a month it’s only when faced with their last chance of escape that she even deigns to tell him her name. During this period the Old Professor becomes somewhat disillusioned with Maria as he begins to realise that beautiful and mysterious can come to look a lot like beautiful and has nothing interesting to say after a while. This briefly looked like it might develop into a commentary on the difference between loving a person and and falling in love with just the idea of a person, but no luck. As soon as she finally shares her name the Old Professor falls right back over the moon so to speak.
Overall I liked the Old Professor. I liked the setting and the flower shop. I especially liked the underlying themes of the story. A few minor quibbles aside, it was a good night out.
Review written by Joshua Scott based on the 23 May 2015 performance.
You can buy tickets to see Me, Maria and the Moon here