The Theatreguide.London Review
Lyttelton Theatre 2012
Nicholas Wright has created a charming and harmless little fable of the early days of cinema, a case of fiction being more fun than fact.
He imagines a village somewhere in eastern Europe a hundred or so years ago, where an enterprising lad finds an early cinema camera and, sponsored by a local merchant, makes a film about his neighbours. In the process he more-or-less accidentally invents the close-up and moving camera, while his lovely assistant invents editing and his sponsor invents the lecherous and interfering producer.
The boy grows up to be a Hollywood filmmaker, and the whole is told in flashbacks as he prepares a movie about his adventures.
The fun of the play lies in the mix of clever rewriting of history and a chicken-fat thick layer of yiddishkeit, the characters all playing like escapees from Fiddler On The Roof. And, while the boy and his girlfriend are nominally the central characters, no one is more colourfully ethnic and adorable than the proto-producer, with Wright even finding a fictional justification for giving him the kind of thick accent and pidgin English we associate with loveable comic immigrants.
Well, if you're going to write a character designed to be irresistible and scene-stealing, you'd better cast an actor capable of stealing scenes and our hearts, and Antony Sher has fun playing as broadly as director Nicholas Hytner allows (or encourages), filling the stage with high spirits and good will.
Sher's expansive style was sometimes a bit too much for the realistic mode of Arthur Miller's Broken Glass last season, but here the play and the character can happily support and withstand all the overacting he wants to throw into them – and he is certainly fun to watch.
Compared to Sher, everyone else seems to be wildly underacting, with Damien Molony and Lauren O'Neil as the lovers constantly in danger of disappearing in his glare, though Sue Kelvin effortlessly provides enough ethnic flavour to register.
Travelling Light doesn't offer any major insights into life, the universe or even the history of cinema, and you're not likely to remember too much of this play a week later. But it's a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
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Review - Travelling Light - National Theatre 2012
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