The Adelaide Festival
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Until 07 Mar 2018

Review by Paige Mulholland

This show is not what you expect. Sold as the story of two brothers “who gradually become entwined in the history of the Soviet-US space race”, it’s easy to think this will be a biopic – a story of espionage, politics, and family ties torn asunder by national powerplays. What “The Far Side of the Moon” actually is, is something far subtler, more dynamic and more creative than anyone seemed to expect.

As promised, Robert Lepage’s “The Far Side of the Moon” follows two brothers – the shy, perpetually-rejected philosophy academic Philippe, who has written a thesis on the influence of ego on the space race, and André, the younger, coupled, successful weatherman who seems to be everyone’s favourite brother.

The story of these two brothers, recovering from the death of their mother and grappling with their relationship with each other, echoes the story of Russia and the US – one quiet and calculating, one confident, popular, and known forevermore as the winner. Just as the US and Russia shared a handshake in space after the race was done, these brothers eventually work their way to an uneasy truce.

But, as is the case with Russia and the US, the truce doesn’t seem particularly sturdy or resolved. Normally, unresolved and ambiguous endings tend to be controversial, but this one seemed universally popular with the audience, perhaps because of the obvious ties to international politics today, or perhaps because this show has so much else to offer, in addition to an absorbing, funny and, at times, challenging plot.

Visually, “The Far Side of the Moon” was stunning. A rare mix between low budget and extravagant, the stage is sliced horizontally with a rotating, polygonal mirror, which is used to throw images of the night sky, create an illusion of zero gravity and, sometimes, show us our own image. In terms of props, performer Yves Jacques does a lot with a little – he turns an ironing board into a motorbike, a table, and every piece of gym equipment under the sun, and a hole built into the set into a washing machine, an MRI machine, an aeroplane window and a fishbowl.

Combined with spectacular puppetry by Éric Leblanc and impressively integrated videography, this show is a huge undertaking, but somehow Jacques, Leblanc and the backstage team manage to pull-off clean, quick transitions and a flowing performance – even as a two-hour production with no interval, it didn’t seem to drag.

This show could easily have crossed over into artsy, inaccessible territory, but instead, with their perfect blend of comedy and philosophy, simplicity and technical prowess and history and intimacy, the show remained universally engrossing, and will definitely stay with its audience for plenty of time to come.