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Travelling Light, National Theatre: Final Three Performances (Closing Saturday 2 June)
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rakspatel wrote in mycroft_brolly

Photo credit: http://thelexicinema.co.uk/2012/01/05/nt-live-travelling-light/

Travelling Light closes at the National tomorrow so this is your last chance to catch it! (it is on this evening, tomorrow matinee, and tomorrow evening). Speaking on a purely personal level, Travelling Light is my favourite production on at the National at the moment, it is one of my favourite productions full stop. I love it to pieces, it speaks to my heart, and I am highly highly highly recommending it.

Cut and pasted from the National Theatre's website:

In a remote village in Eastern Europe, around 1900, the young Motl Mendl is entranced by the flickering silent images on his father’s cinematograph. Bankrolled by Jacob, the ebullient local timber merchant, and inspired by Anna, the girl sent to help him make moving pictures of their village, he stumbles on a revolutionary way of story-telling. Forty years on, Motl – now a famed American film director – looks back on his early life and confronts the cost of fulfilling his dreams.

Nicholas Wright’s new play is a funny and fascinating tribute to the Eastern European immigrants who became major players in Hollywood’s golden age. The award-winning Antony Sher returns to play Jacob.

For more information and to book tickets follow the link:
http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/68375/productions/travelling-light.html

Raks's Review


Damien Molony as Motl Mendl
Photo credit: http://knox.villagesoup.com/ae/story/travelling-light-live-from-london/480373

I will lay my cards on the table upfront. I loved this play and specifically this production. I am a HUGE Nick Hytner fan; I love most, if not all, of his productions; and my favourite plays at the National over the years have all been directed by Nick Hytner - my two favourite productions EVER are Mother Clap's Molly House and The Man of Mode, both directed by Nick Hytner.

So what did I like and why did I fall in love with the play and this production?

I loved the portrayal of a very close-knit Jewish community, populated with a vast array of very interesting and diverse characters. Each character was a very detailed and rich character study and felt very real. It gave a real sense of the Jewish community at the time, and its internal politics, power structure and dynamics, ie the way it worked. It also felt very much as though this story of a Jewish community, and the people within it, was being told from the inside by someone who had a deep love for the community (Nick Hytner is Jewish).

Surprisingly for me, Antony Sher was not the main lead - the main lead was Damien Molony playing Motl Mendl, whom I have not seen live on stage before. I thought he was just outstanding. He captured my sympathy and empathy right from the outset, and I was immediately interested in his dreams and ambitions and I really wanted to hear his story.

For me, again bringing my own baggage to bear on the piece, what I connected with was Damien Molony's character, Motl Mendl. How he loved the family and the community that he was a part of quite deeply, but how he longed for escape so that he could engage with and reach the wider world (the mainstream). His desire not to be "limited" by his race and/or ethnicity. His dream to make beautiful, innovative and pioneering movies, about everyone and for everyone, not just Jewish movies about his own community.

Ironically, although Motl does escape Eastern Europe and the Jewish community by moving to America, he can never escape his family, his community and his heritage. All the movies that he makes in the US bear the clear imprint of the Jewish stories that he was born and raised on. Yes, you can never escape your upbringing and your roots, no matter how much or how hard you try!

However, I equally understood the deep desire of Antony Sher's character, Jacob Bindel, to want to use Motl Mendl to simply record the people and the way of life so that it would be there for posterity, long after they were gone. As Nick Hytner says in the introduction, that way of life is now gone and lost forever. So it is important to record and document social and family history and moving pictures, even silent pictures, were a great way of capturing characters and place.

This play and this production really gives a very rich sense of a specific community, in a very particular place, at a specific point in time. I loved that!

As well as looking at issues of Jewishness, race and ethnicity, this piece also looks at issues of gender. What was it like for a young woman to live in those communities; could she have a career or was she only useful as a wife and a mother; how much freedom of choice did she have in choosing a spouse or was this dictated by her family, specifically her male elders; how much sexual freedom did she have; what if she got into trouble; what options were available; and if an unmarried woman got pregnant, bringing shame onto her family, would she really be cast out of the community and left to die in the cold of winter?

Anna is a great character. She is an strong, intelligent and independent woman, making her own way in the world, and having to (through force of circumstances) stand on her own two feet. I loved the fact that she is an equal partner in the relationship, for example she is the one who has the idea of cutting the film so that it tells a story and she is the one who reminds Motl that Jacob's idea to show Anna thinking of her father is technically possible. She also has the inner strength and the courage to ultimately do the right thing for Motl and let him go to America to follow his dreams, even though this leaves her in a very difficult position.

Finally, the piece has a real ebb and flow to it. The story grips from start to finish, because the characters are interesting and you care about them and what happens to them. The scenes run seamlessly one into another, and the piece just flows along. I like it in the theatre when there is a powerful story being told, that makes you want to hurry back to your seat from the interval, because you are really keen to find out what happens next! The scenes flow and the story sings.

If I had one complaint I would actually like a follow-up companion piece which told the next part of the story. So this play concentrates on how Motl Mendl started film-making, using his Jewish community in Eastern Europe as a backdrop. I would like a second part to look at his story and his journey when he got to America. How hard it was as an alien and an outsider to make his way, any discrimination and prejudice he faced and overcame, whether he had to stay within the Jewish niche or how he managed to break into the mainstream, whether Motl actually ever got to make the beautiful movies that he wanted to make, not limited by race and ethnicity. So my request is ... can we please have a part 2?!

In summary, I am highly highly higly recommending this play, and specifically this production.


Antony Sher as Jacob Bindel
Photo credit: http://knox.villagesoup.com/ae/story/travelling-light-live-from-london/480373

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