First up, I have a confession to make. I’m a little bit of a geek at heart. Oh, who am I kidding, I’m a data-loving, sci-fi-watching, über-geek. I just say this to soften the blow that my real reason for wanting to see Travelling Light at the National Theatre was because it stars Damien Molony, one of the lead actors from Being Human.
But you know what, I’m seriously glad that I am *that* big a geek, because otherwise I might not have gone to see this play and I would have missed out on something really special.
Travelling Light is a story about the magic of cinema and some of the early pioneers who made it happen. Telling the tale of the fictional Motl Mendl it starts at the turn of the 20th century. Financed by timber merchant Jacob and inspired by the beautiful Anna, this young ambitious man finding a way of creating motion pictures by filming the people of his home.
On paper, it doesn’t sound like my kind of thing at all, who would have thought that the invention of cuts in film would be delightful, the creation of narrative in movies would be utterly charming? For while this play is undeniably a love letter to cinema, obsessed with the innovations that made the art form great, it goes beyond the mundane to capture the excitement and enchantment of movie making.
Ironically, I don’t think that this story would work as a film. Great theatre is electric, you can feel the energy of the performers in a real and tangible way – you share it because there’s no filter between you and them. I left the theatre buzzing with excitement thanks to this show.
Travelling Light was hilarious, which caught me off guard. Then, right when I thought I had it figured as a light hearted comedy, it hit me with moments of tenderness that brought a lump to my throat, a tear to my eye and an embarrassingly loud sniff to my nose.
Anthony Sher was on fire as Jacob, an early prototype for a movie producer. Damien Molony was just the right mix of charming and heartless. And I was especially excited to see Karl Theobald, a favourite of mine from Green Wing, up on stage.
There’s more I could say – but I’d prefer not to spoil the ending for anyone who has yet to see it. And if you can, you should definitely go see it.
Travelling Light is at the National Theatre until 2 June. For tickets and more information visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.