Review By Tessa Stickland
Chris Marlton's Moonlight Pilot was a transformative experience. Maybe this was in part due to the venue being a dimly lit room in an underground pub (being underground in the city always makes me feel odd). But it's more likely due to Marlton's intimate and sensitive performance.
In Moonlight Pilot Marlton gives us three characters. He goes through each alter ego one after the other, spending about 15 minutes with each.
The show is framed as a relationship advice seminar, with each of the three characters being a speaker.
As Marlton's first character, motivational speaker Rob-Rob Anthony, says, it takes about 15 minutes of talking with someone to start getting distracted and checking out. So splitting up the show with different characters is brilliant. Each new 'face' gives the audience a moment to refresh and reset.
I attended a Monday night show with only 4 audience members. My normal praise when a performer does well with a small audience is usually that they battled through it, or that they continued with confidence despite the setback of a tiny crowd.
Marlton is also one not phased by this. But he takes an alternate route. He makes it work because of the tiny crowd.
That's not to say that it'd be bad with a big audience (I'm sure it's not), but I wouldn't be surprised if the tone is a little different.
Particularly as Rob-Rob Anthony and character number two, comedian/marriage-councilor Gareth Mosley, Marlton uses this to his advantage. He does what someone talking at a self-help seminar would do: he directs all his attention at us. He doesn't pretend he's speaking to a stadium. He gets on our level and engages with us directly; from eye contact to crowdwork. He asked our names and would punctuate sentences with them. You get me, [Your Name]?
Rob-Rob Anthony is an American character. Fitting for the motivational speaker/start-up entrepreneur/self-help guru type. Marlton's performance is grounded. It's not an overt caricature. So much so that, because I'd never heard him speak before, I assumed that Marlton himself must be American.
It wasn't until his Australian character that I realised my mistake.
The third character is Marlon M’Logne, a distracted New Yorker. He steers off the relationship advice track and onto a path of enigmatic storytelling.
He speaks in a poetic way, but with a New York accent. It's captivating. Paired with the weird short story (about the power of names) it's a tasty bit of theatre magic. There's this lovely sensitivity to everything he says.
Marlton's grounded and intuitive performance is overall uplifting and hopeful in tone, despite the acknowledgement that we live in a desperate and lonely world.