Rakshita (Raks) Patel (rakspatel) wrote in mycroft_brolly,
Rakshita (Raks) Patel

Travelling Light, National Theatre, directed by Nick Hytner

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

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:

Travelling Light will be broadcast to cinemas across the UK and around the world on 9 February 2012 as part of National Theatre Live. To find your nearest cinema and to book tickets follow the link:

Raks's Review

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.

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?

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 - please do go and see it either live at the theatre, or in cinemas when it has its NT Live on 9 February.

I will be seeing this production again, and I may (just!) come back and flesh this review out a bit more after a second, and third, viewing! I also need to read the programme (I have not done so yet) and explore the NT website fully, to read up on, and all about, the history and the context. So I will definitely be revisiting this review in the near future.

Antony Sher as Jacob Bindel
Photo credit: http://knox.villagesoup.com/ae/story/travelling-light-live-from-london/480373
Tags: big society, national theatre, politics, race
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