David Almond's Skellig, is not short of accolades, having already won the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year and the Carnegie Medal (1998) in it's first incarnation as a children's novel. Arguably, the author's adaptation brought to the Lowry by Birmingham Stage Company is worthy of a few more.
Ten year old Michael and his family are thrilled to move into a new house but their plans are disrupted by the premature arrival of his baby sister. Distracted and distressed, Michael's parents leave him to explore alone. In a dark corner of the garage, amongst the dead bluebottles, he discovers the frail and irritable Skellig. Enlisting the help of new friend, Mina, he nurses the creature back to health. As the mysterious Skellig grows stronger, he sprouts a pair of feathery wings – just who, or what, has Michael really found?
Skellig opens with a cluttered set laden with junk (Jackie Trousdale), immediately transporting us to that dusty forgotten corner in our own garages. A staircase is the main feature, with props cleverly concealed in various cubbyholes, keeping set changes to a minimum and the momentum of the action high. Musical accompaniment is provided by actors playing instruments on stage, creating an atmosphere so seamlessly that we almost forget they're present.
Neal Foster's Skellig is grouchy and pathetic, riddled with 'Arthur-ritus' and with little interest in visitors. Despite this, the warmth and concern that Mina (Charlotte Sanderson) and Michael (Dean Logan) show for him cannot help but invoke our sympathy. The dialogue is believable, yet poignant and brought to life by a talented cast. Much of the narration is delivered in a rhythmic, chanting chorus that is evocative of religious ceremony, aligning with the angelic theme.
The beauty of this play is in it's universal appeal; a neat narrative with a satisfying ending wrapped in the tantalising mystery of the Skellig's true nature. A story that is as moving for adults as it is entertaining for children; I defy anyone to get to the final curtain without a tear in their eye.