The Moon Looks Delicious From Here: Holding on to an ever changing past

Our grasp of what actually happened in our lives is slippery, apparently. Memory is not the reliable informant we like to think it is. 

Of 569 students interviewed two years after the attack on the World Trade Centre, 73% of them remember seeing television footage of the first plane hitting the north tower that day. But that footage only aired for the first time the next day. Our memories do not sit unchanged, like a photograph or a text to be retrieved and brought to light; each time we bring a memory to mind we are re-remembering, creating a memory of a memory. We are unreliable historians of our own lives. 

The only way to retain something of the original memory is to capture it in some unalterable form. Writing serves this purpose best. It also explains why what we may have written in a journal seems far removed from how we now remember it years later, but it is the journal which is closest to the truth, not us. 

This capturing of the past, even as it daily slips further from him, is what Aldo Brincat has attempted with his play The Moon Looks Delicious From Here, which presents us with selected events from his child and teenhood in Durban in the bad old 1980s.

It’s a brave move, to assume anyone might be interested in a white boy’s apartheid autobiography. ‘White is not oraait’ as the artwork in Cafe Ganesh, just a few hundred metres from the Theatre Arts where Brincat performed his Cape Town premier on Friday night, states. 

Perhaps, a mere generation down the line, we’ve reached the point where we’re all equal in art, if not (certainly not) in politics, so long as we’re not revisionist. Yet, given memory’s deceit, do we ever remember our selves true, are we not all revisionists of our own personal histories? No matter, as wokeism is keen to state, you cannot argue with a lived experience and who are we to say what is truth and fiction in someone else’s story, even if we were there, which we weren’t. 

Not that Brincat makes any claims of heroic social consciousness. Quite the opposite, his adolescent self admits to liking Afrikaans. For a non-Afrikaaner in the ‘80s, that’s a serious faux-pas. No, the hero is his dad, and to some extent his older friend Wayne. He also does not shy away from his mother’s racism and depression, although the really interesting avenue it presents remains unexplored: How does one reconcile one’s love for a mother who is racist, particularly in relation to a father who isn’t? How does memory elide this conflict? 

This being a solo performance, Brincat switches between all these characters, sometimes using Chinese linking rings as a way to visually differentiate characters in dialogue. These illusionists’ rings are cleverly used to link disparate scenes and cut across time. There is also a pleasing metaphor in their being tools of illusion within the illusion which is memory. 

Accent and posture are also used, of course, which is where Brincat fell a bit short. The physical and tonal switch between characters was not always completely convincing, there were occasions it seemed the character was being played rather than inhabited – a very difficult prospect in quick switches, granted – the real momentum in the work is the story. The dialogue between characters is close cropped  and the timing between scenes finely tuned to hold our attention. However, being a work lacking a definitive dramatic arc, being rather a series of smaller dramas, it could benefit from an edit.

There was also confusion about the characters’ ages at various stages in the tale. At one point there’s four years between Aldo and his elder brother, yet later it is two. When he meets Wayne he is nine, and Wayne is 13. A four year gap between friends at that point in childhood doesn’t seem likely. These may seem quibbles, but they detract from the overall impact of what is an engaging, at times whimsical play shot through with humour and a Mediterranean optimism within tragic circumstance. 

In the best tradition of Poor Theatre, it is also an important play in that it contributes to the tapestry of our shared history and trauma as The Moon Looks Delicious From Here invites us to reconjure our own memories and confront some difficult truths while doing so, and then be kind to the young person we were. That kindness matters, because in the ‘80s, there was very little of it going around. 

The Moon Looks Delicious From Here is written and performed by Aldo Brincat, and directed by Sjaka Septembir. It played at Theatre Arts in Observatory from 17 – 19 March.

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