Ben Moor’s latest solo show is a delicate, glinting thing. It takes its audience on a quest for treasure and finds it in words, in the imagination, in each other, in a hot dark room in Edinburgh.
The play is ribboned with wit and word play, with linguistic zig-zaggery, images that lodge themselves firmly and deeply in the memory. Moor excels at taking familiar things and twisting them, spinning them a degree or two away from the expected. The universe he describes is recognisable and yet not. Concepts are inverted, upended, stood on their heads. There’s a streak of absurdist humour at play too in this story of relationships and connection and the hope we keep locked in boxes, a dash of Lewis Carroll. It’s hard to condense what is so text-heavy without merely repeating favourite lines or ideas or images. Part of the pleasure is in letting the story wrap its arms around you, like a hug. A big wordy hug.
The plot meanders through a series of chance encounters had by a narrator – a corporate thwart by profession, a generator of institutional incompetence – who has recently gone through a break up from his wife, Radium. It’s a mirror world Moor’s created here, but not in a satirical sense, instead it’s almost science-fictiony in its skewed view of things, a world in which the lonely reunite with people with whom they didn’t go to school and where children play with dystopian Lego. And yet it’s also very much the world we’ve made, a world where true communication can get lost amid the noise and we sometimes need to pause and remember what matters, what’s precious to us.
There’s nothing inherently theatrical about any of this. It’s just Moor talking, though his stage presence, if that’s the right term, is part of the appeal, measured, gentle, eccentric, slightly vulnerable. He pads around the studio space barefoot, a little hesitant at times. And yet he holds your attention throughout, transports you into his universe.
Some of his jokes are blunter than others (though this is very much comparative) and he’s not afraid of a pun when the moment calls for one (not a bad thing by any means). I would have appreciated more in the way of narrative momentum, but that’s a question of taste more than anything else. The piece as a whole speaks of the need for human connection, to be known, to be seen, to be held. “We are all transmitters and receivers of stories”, he says at one point and if you love language and the places it can take you, then you’ll listen to the story he has to tell.