The theme rings, echoing, space filling, lights flashing-ing and painted in big bold letters on the foreheads of each character in Emily Sheehan’s youth drama ‘Daisy Moon Was Born This Way’. But not just the sort of light-hearted teen drama acceptance you may be expecting. Daisy Moon tackles the idea of Acceptance in a way that creeps in on your heart as you become absorbed in the lives and home-hitting coming of age struggles faced by this cast of 5 in Jopuka Productions’ latest production and kick off to their 2020 season.
Acceptance not just of Others and Self; but acceptance of your actions and the actions of those around you and their consequences on the world. ‘Daisy Moon’ boldly makes the exclamation: ‘Things are as they are. How can we come to terms with them and move forward?’. And although the material with a wonderful skeleton feels as though it needs a few more drafts; first time Director Elyse Hayhurst under the guidance of Joshua Maxwell, has obviously taken a great deal of consideration when trying to unpack Sheehan’s material in a truthful way without loosing its quirky charm and tickling comedic elements. Hayhurst balances visual charm and emotional depth in a way that usually just isn’t seen in plays like this one – which usually end up feeling like ‘fun for the kids in it’.
The ‘kids’ in this case are a double cast platter of emerging artists developing their craft through the very hands-on nature of Jopuka and blossoming as a result of it. I was witness to the Opening Night cast.
Tara Soanes envelops the charming and frantic, Gaga-obsessed and energy-filled titular character Daisy Moon as she and her brother Noah [Lachlan Knight] juggle personal secrets, a looming potential family tragedy and their social lives. Soanes despite some nervous moments rocketed through the starting gates with an energy that drove the entire evening home in a flash of glittery Gaga-filled glory. Daisy Moon is not a particularly complex character; to the point where the play seems to be about everyone but her with a tacit of brief flirtation with her sexuality on the end. Soanes made the best of this by playing to her personal strengths as a performer and the qualities of the character to develop Daisy into a more lovable and uplifting crutch for those around her as opposed to the trap of ‘Playing the Drama’ as Harold Guskin would say.
Knight displays a truth and theatrical sophistication well beyond his years as an emerging artist in the character of Noah, which only makes me long for the day I see him perform again with further technical training which will undoubtedly launch him into a successful professional career. Jess Carter as Parker, Daisy’s new best friend and later poorly positioned wedge between her and her brother, was wonderfully fresh and added a ‘zazz’ to spice-up some otherwise rather predictably scripted moments. The cast was well rounded with Daniel George as Jimmy, Noah’s best friend and Zac Cunynghame as the glamorous and eternally wise Lady Gaga.
Joshua Maxwell’s set design took great advantage of the versatility of Jopuka’s ‘Home-Space’ The Launchpad. Elements of Maxwell’s design even went that step further in some cases when you thought it had run out of tricks, providing a visual highlight to moments of devastation within the play. Rather upsettingly though, the versatility of the space and design was not used to its full advantage in some cases. Perhaps due to working with a rather new and experimental layout for Jopuka and the directorial team. Some moments would have benefited from the use of more visual depth.
Jopuka Productions has stayed well on brand with their first show of the decade, showcasing that Daisy Moon WAS Born This Way – and despite its textual flaws that meander along the fringe of being something wonderful, I wouldn’t want to see her any way but theirs.