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Layla Estasy and John Shrimpton. Photo: Patrick Boland.

Danielle Cormack, Layla Estasy, John Shrimpton and Kenneth Moraleda. Photo: Patrick Boland.

POSTED: 12 SEPTEMBER 2010

Yellow Moon: The Ballad of Leila and Lee, by David Greig

B Sharp & white blackbird | Belvoir Street Theatre, Surry Hills, Sydney | Until 26 Sep

Last year, Sydney’s theatre community offered a run of productions by Russian playwrights. I loved it.

This year, a recurrent theme seems to be combining of music, movement and dance into dramatic works.

And I love it.

What I enjoy most about this approach are the seemingly endless ways that directors, actors and creative teams work together to enhance an already compelling tale.

Yellow Moon: The Ballad of Leila and Lee is a powerful, dynamic work in its own right. Adding in scattergun bursts of rhythmic mantra, flowing choreography, and subtle — almost static — tableaux of characters at various points in the story brings this piece to a whole new level.

David Greig’s tale is loosely based on Lee Shelton (1865-1912), a taxi driver and pimp convicted of murder, after an argument in a bar and the subsequent taking of Shelton’s hat ended with his adversary shot in the abdomen.

The story has been brought forward to the present day, and Lee (better known as “Stag Lee”, due to the stag-embossed cap forever resting on his head) is 17. Angry, bored, aimless, Lee (John Shrimpton) seeks out ways to make money that involve little effort and less legality.

Leila (Layla Estasy) feels invisible and unreal. Electing to remain silent, she escapes into celebrity magazines and self-harm.

Their lives change forever after a chance meeting at the all-night store ends in tragedy. The couple flee into the wilderness and the world of the enigmatic Frank (the excellent Kenneth Moraleda). They begin to face some brutal realities; the fragile possibilities of a different future; their frailties and strengths.

Shrimpton and Estasy literally and figuratively dance around one another as they discover themselves. This young pair brought such believability and depth of sorrow to their roles I wanted to give them hugs.

Susanna Dowling’s direction, coupled with Johanna Puglisi’s choreography and Ekrem Mulayim’s sound is a truly affecting experience. Peppered with humour (largely thanks to the delightful Danielle Cormack’s over-the-top Holly, a celebrity seeking some respite in the wilds), layered with violence and heartbreak, this is a hell of a ride.