I have rarely left the NT as disgusted as I was with an actor as I was after this production. The play itself is an oddity: almost nothing happens in the first 2 hours, then the last 20 minutes are full of exposition and plot. Lauren O'Neil - as other reviewers have noted- is wonderful. This could have been a reasonable production, but for the ghastly performance of Antony Sher, who is as out-of-kilter with the production as if he thought he was signing up for the lead and is determined to play his supporting role to the hilt. It's absolutely horrible to watch something so unprofessional. It's pretty good when he's off and the two leads are romantically convincing, but Hytner should never have stood for the biggest upstager since John Woodvine in An Enemy of the People (NT with McKellan) who equally destroyed a subtle performance. - dgr1
27 Feb 12
Travelling Light is like a cross between Fiddler On the Roof and Ragtime without the songs - although there is a boy fiddler (that doesn't look right!). This story of the early days of motion pictures is light and charming in places but it comes as a surprise to learn that the early days of movies could have taken place in a shtetl in deepest Russia. Nicholas Wright's knowing comparison of Anthony Sher's timber merchant to the interference of the Hollywood studio moguls is a bit heavy handedand it's possible to tick off all the cliches being "discovered" - a cinema building, editing, continuity, test screenings, even a casting couch. Sher hams it up outrageously as a hybrid of Topol and Sam Goldwyn but Damien Molony struggles to make the ambitious film-maker Motl engaging or likeable. Lauren O'Neill though is superb as Anna, both on the stage and in the excellent recreations of ancient silent movies. The ending takes coincidence to a high level of schmalz and although Travelling Light is enjoyable in a disposable way it's disappointing after Wright's exceptional Last of the Duchess which was one of the best new plays of last year. - David Baxter
23 Feb 12
This is a work of fiction, and if you take it as that, its charming, amusing, clever and well crafted. Some seem to have taken exception to its hijacking of cinematic history which Iím not sure itís trying to do.
Weíre in an East European Jewish village at the turn of the 20th century when Motl returns from the city after the death of his father. Discovering his fatherís photographic and early cinematic equipment, he becomes enthralled with the idea of moving pictures and is encouraged and funded by local businessman Jacob to make a film of people in the village. Despite the somewhat critical reception, the idea of a work of fiction is mooted and enthusiasm goes viral as they embark on its making.
Many of the pioneers of early Hollywood were Jews from this part of the world and indeed we do skip forward to 1936 when Motl has changed his name to Maurice and become a successful director, but I donít think the play is making any claims to present the true origin of cinema as we know it. It does include the genesis of the business model for public exhibition of films and shows technical discoveries like editing, lighting reflectors, the camera dolly and special effects, but it does so with its tongue in its cheek. We have stereotypes like the interfering producer, corner-cutting production accountant, highly strung director and upstaging actors. There are comments from a preview audience (the beginnings of the focus group) and it even hints at the casting couch!
Bob Crowleyís monochrome design cleverly merges live action with film footage, though it only opens up once to reveal the village exteriors (as a film set in 1936) which seems a bit of a shame. Itís a little slow in the first half, but does pick up pace and draws you in. The performances are a bit stereotypical (Fiddler on the Roof Ė with a fiddler included!) though I really liked Damien Molony as Motl and Lauren OíNeil as the love interest. The other ladies all engage well Ė Sue Kelvin as Motlís aunt, Abigail McKern as Jacobís wife and Alexis Zegerman as his daughter. This isnít Anthony Sherís greatest moment, but his somewhat caricatured Jacob does make you smile and laugh.
If you donít set your sights too high, itís an enjoyable couple of hours. The Nicholasís Wright (playwright) and Hytner (director) have done better work, but this is an enjoyable evening nontheless and Iím glad I went. - Gareth James
08 Feb 12
This play condenses all the early discoveries of dramatic filmmaking techniques into a fable, which unfortunately, is not itself sufficiently dramatic for most of it's running time. The beautiful silent films projected do inspire admiration for the originators of silent film storytelling, so the production works best as a paean to the Jewish artists and artisans who founded Hollywood. The emergence of serious drama in the last twenty minutes or so feels forced and somewhat odd, unearned by appropriate foreshadowing. Anthony Sher is an actor I love, and his big brash shetl-based timber merchant and movie producer is an amusingly overblown and worthy addition to his canon. Lauren O'Neil is a Katherine Turneresque husky-voiced star in the making. This production is very much a mixed bag. - steveatplays
01 Feb 12
I enjoyed this production with a great cast and good as ever Antony Sher. It did remind me a bit of Fiddler on the Roof but then it was based more or less in the same era. - Joe Spiteri
01 Feb 12
First part :OK; good ideas and excellent visual...but the second half...poor. And Antony Sher??? What is that? "A Fiddler on the Roof"?
What happened Nicholas Hytner? - Marcelo
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