Moon Child

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Keisha Thompson: Man On The Moon,
[London, Bernie Grant Arts Centre]
Part of the well-programmed Tottenham Literature Festival, this excellent one woman show is a brave exploration of family dynamics, mental health and racial politics in contemporary Britain, where these conversations need to take place a lot more often.
Keisha Thompson proves more than up to the task in a fearlessly personal, ultimately gripping performance that highlights the immense challenge of a daughter-father relationship in which the patriarch has to grapple with the no less debilitating issue of being a West Indian migrant in a post-colonial society, living a life of bleak solitude where a sectioning order is reality rather than mere eventuality.
Using a bare stage on which towers of books mark the boundaries of her own psyche, Thompson conducts a monologue that crackles with intellectual and emotional fire, deconstructing the importance of name changes for people of colour, with her father’s mutation from Roderick to Abdullah to Sallah, in line with his embrace of Islam, as an illuminating metaphor for the bigger quandary of identity on rapidly shifting sands.
Which one of these characters, or incarnations of her father, can actually find inner peace in a world where gravity still exerts an irresistible downward pull on ethnic minorities? A hardback Thompson brandishes hits the floor to underline the quest. Although she initially takes time to settle down and find her rhythm, Thompson nails a demanding and detailed text with authority, engaging the audience with both reflections and questions that change register, from deadly serious to humourous, with no loss of coherence. Her father’s suggestion that she engage in Taoist sex as a paradoxical nod to his own fears of young people succumbing to fornication, is hilariously recounted, while her description of a bus journey through her native Manchester in which she carries a bag of ‘soup, letters and guilt’ is intensely moving.
Interspersed with subtle musical interludes, during which Thompson reveals an ethereally soulful voice over minimal beats, the narrative builds to a literally uplifting conclusion, during which a sofa is cranked to the sky so that the protagonist can turn Afronaught and contemplate the depth and breadth her life from a dreamlike heaven. [Pic by Benji Reid.] Kevin Le Gendre