Captain Moonlite

Captain Moonlite
By Jye Bryant. Richmond Players. Richmond School of Arts, Corner March and West Market Streets, Richmond, NSW. Aug 5 – 26, 2023.

The historical ambience of the Richmond School of Arts aids in transporting the audience back to the tumultuous time of bushrangers, stirring imaginations and combining them with the anticipation of witnessing a new production. Steeped in history itself, it is a location perfectly suited to the spirit of Captain Moonlite, a new musical shedding light on one of Australia's most intriguing historical figures. 

For those unfamiliar with Captain Moonlite's history, Bryant's storytelling warmly welcomes us into this captivating era and intriguing man. 

Captain Moonlite, whose real name was Andrew George Scott, was an enigmatic figure of the 19th century. Known for his daring exploits, he was an Australian bushranger and cult figure of his time. Moonlite led a group of outlaws, captivating people's imaginations with his charisma. He became a symbol of defiance against authority and a champion of the underprivileged. His notorious exploits are legendary, but what sets this production apart is its courage to address Captain Moonlite’s sexuality head-on by acknowledging his identity as a gay bushranger, the musical highlights an often-ignored aspect of history. 

Bryant has lovingly poured hours into the previously suppressed final letters of Moonlite, exploring humanity, injustice, and media sensationalism and encouraging us to look further into history books and seek our truth. 

Moonlite’s actions were a mix of romanticism, rebellion, and tragedy, etching his name forever in the annals of Australia's history.

Stepping into the lead is Peter David Allison. With a magnetic stage presence, he brings Captain Moonlite to life. He captures the complexity and charisma of this enigmatic character with a rugged softness and charm. Through his lovely Irish vocals and nuanced portrayal, he transports the audience into the world of this legendary bushranger. The show sits firmly on his shoulders, and he is up to the task as he tells the tale and enjoys multiple solos.

We follow Moonlite's life, looking back from his death cell. Captivating performances follow when his life turns unexpectedly as he falls in love with and forms a close bond with fellow outlaw James Nesbitt, played by Michael Clewes. Clewes brought magic into his duet and solo, his performance brimming with authenticity and conviction. I would have liked to see more of this character and hear more of his beautiful vocals. 

The gender-blind casting subverted the traditional norms of a historical narrative as Grace Lizzio-Shatpe gave an excellent performance and skilfuly embraced a gendered mix of characters. This commitment to challenging conventional gender roles intertwined seamlessly with the exploration of Captain Moonlite's struggle against societal expectations.

Rounding out the small cast of six were Martyn Carter, Lucas Galatidis and Donald Gardiner playing  the various characters infused in Moonlite’s life and, notably, his gang of unfortunate outlaws. I enjoyed all of the character work the ensemble carried. 

Director John Brown has integrated projections and traditional costume elements, transporting the audience back to the vibrant and rugged landscape of 19th-century Australia. Various locations crucial to Captain Moonlite's narrative transitioned between the rustic charm of a campsite to the foreboding presence of a courtroom or gaol cell. The use of props and scenic elements created a sense of place. Each scene was realised through a shift in projection and minimal set pieces busily moved on and off by the cast and stage crew. Multiple scene changes, at times, potentially distract the audience from the storytelling. 

Steve Wimmer’s lighting design captured the essence of Moonlite's adventures. Be it the dimly lit meeting spaces or the moonlight shining through bushland, the combination of hues and shadows mirrored the enigmatic nature of this outlaw, which can be no easy feat working with projections and actors on a stage, keeping everyone lit without throwing a shadow onto projections. 

The creative team of Richmond Players’ Captain Moonlite, John Brown, Susan Brown and Anthony Ashdown, and their astute vision, delivered an engaging and enlightening show. 

This production not only provides entertainment but also serves as a reminder of the importance of confronting history's narratives with empathy and inclusivity. Captain Moonlite is a testament to theatre's power in reshaping our understanding and perspective on the past, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to grow and change.

Nicole Smith 

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