Yesterday I went with my son and husband to see “Travelling Light” at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. The production, brought to Newcastle by the National Theatre, is the story of how a young man, Motl Mendl, (played by Damien Molony) brought back to his home town by the death of his father, discovers the moving image through playing with his father’s cinematograph.
The play is punctuated by film scenes projected over the set or on the back wall of Mendl’s aunt’s home. These show both life in the “shtetl” (small Jewish town) and the development of Mendl’s skills as a film maker. He and his assistant Anna Mazowiecka (whose abandonment by her mother as a baby goes on to inspire Mendl’s first dramatic feature) innovate editing and directing techniques many years before Hollywood tackles these problems. Lauren O’ Neil plays the part of Anna wonderfully and is stunning as the film star on the screen.
There are many funny moments, Jacob the timber-merchant (Antony Sher), while an enthusiastic patron of Mendl’s cinematic projects, cannot reign-in his comically controlling nature and cannot resist interfering with the artistic process. The cast provide a variety of believable yet amusing characters painting a picture of a close community proud of their clever young film maker but keen to keep him close to home.
The play time-shifts from Mendl’s toots in the shtetl to his time in Hollywood as an established and respected film-make. The older Mendl, renamed for Hollywood as Maurice Montgomery, was played by Paul Jesson, who also narrated much of the story.
The film is about human relationships, the need to move on in order to grow, love, betrayal and family. It pays tribute to the Eastern European immigrants who played major roles in founding the cinema industry in the US.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and found the cast very engaging. The set was a clever representation of the Shtetl and the use of film both fitted the story and enhanced the production.
I was pleased to see that the Theatre Royal sell local ice cream from Beckleberry’s and we partook of some lovely raspberry ice cream in the interval. A great afternoon out!
The production is running until Saturday 7th April. Check for details of this and other productions on at the Theatre Royal on their website: http://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on
All pictures from the National Theatre website.