Archive | February, 2010

This is what theatre should be

22 Feb

On a hot summer Sunday afternoon we are invited through the magic of modern technology to watch an (almost) live broadcast of the National Theatre‘s production of Nation. I’m at once excited and terrified. Excited, because Phedre was one of my cultural highlights of last year and I am hoping this will be its equal. Terrified because Terry Pratchett is a lifelong hero of mine and I am worried the play might not live up to my expectations.

I needn’t have worried: Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation captures the spirit of the novel masterfully. In fact the entire joyous, tragic, ALIVE production carries that spirit – the questioning, but also the living beyond the questioning, the BEING. ┬áThe production weaves effortlessly between the delightful, simple humour and pleasure of Jason Thorpe’s Milton the Parrot; the taught crisp portrayal by Paul Chahidi of a man unravelling; and the myriad portraits of human nature brought to life by the well attuned company. At the centre of it all, Gary Carr as Mau and Emily Taaffe as Daphne are utterly believable and compelling, as we journey with them on their discovery of themselves, each other, and of course the Nation.

I could go on – the design is remarkable, the capturing of the water scenes most inspired and the puppetry elements integrated, intelligent and not even for a second gratuitous. Director Melly Still┬átells us at the beginning of the broadcast about her desires for the play, and she succeeds at every one. It does make you think, it does entertain you, and it is something that people of all ages from young adult (which I still consider myself at not yet thirty…) to rather old adult can enjoy.

The sad part? The half empty theatre. Having spent most of the week ranting at our performing arts industry for being apathetic, perhaps I should not be surprised. And there are those that whine about the ticket price – well guess what? Flying to London to see it would cost you rather more. So do yourself a favour PLEASE, and catch the second broadcast, at Cinema Nouveau’s around South Africa, on Wednesday 24 February – book now!

And as a postscript: we were even luckier than those actually at the theatre in London. We got to enjoy popcorn with our play.