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Travelling Light from the National to the Grand

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In theatre and film 2012 is clearly the year of the movie pioneers. The Artist has swept the board at the Oscars, Singin’ in the Rain is still running in London and the National Theatre has had a hit with Travelling Light, to be seen this month at the Grand Theatre, Leeds.

Nicholas Wright’s play is a humorous tribute to the Eastern European immigrants who became major players (as directors, writers, composers and, of course, studio bosses) in Hollywood’s early years. The story of the fictional Maurice Montgomery (ne Motl Mendl) begins around 1900 when he returns to his remote village after his father’s death to find that his legacy is a few flickering silent images on his father’s cinematograph. Bankrolled by Jacob, the local timber merchant, and inspired by the young Anna, he finds his way to a revolutionary method of story telling in film.

Travelling Light is directed by National Theatre Director, Nicholas Hytner, whose impressive career has included stage and screen versions of two plays by a favourite son of Leeds, Alan Bennett: The Madness of George III and The History Boys. Recently he has had a huge success at the National with the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, originally starring James Corden, which has gone on to sell-out West End seasons.

Anthony Sher plays Jacob, not surprisingly billed as “a larger than life character”, as tends to be the way with Sher’s stage creations, though his most recent West End role, in Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, found him exploring a much more intense and traumatic side of the Jewish experience. A fellow-veteran of many Royal Shakespeare Company seasons, Paul Jesson, is the older Maurice Montgomery, looking back on his younger self played by Damien Molony. Molony’s professional debut was in Leeds, in the recent West Yorkshire Playhouse production of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, and he has recently joined the cast of BBC 3’s Being Human. The National Theatre cast is unchanged for the tour, with Lauren O’Neil repeating her much-praised performance as Motl’s muse, Anna.

The National Theatre production of Travelling Light plays the Grand Theatre, Leeds, from 20 - 24 March, with the Wednesday performance followed by a question and answer session chaired by the Yorkshire Post’s Nick Ahad.


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