by Terry Pratchett adapted by Mark Ravenhill.
Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 28 March 2010.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 24 November.
Something good to say but not so good in execution.
It just goes to show, you can never tell. Just when you think you’ve found a successful formula it blows up in your face.
Five years ago, the National scored a resounding success with their adaptation of Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials. I wrote then that no "production in recent times has stirred me on so many levels."
Nick Hytner must have felt that with Melly Still in charge and Mark Ravenhill adapting Terry Prachett’s highly popular 2008 novel `for young adults’, how could they lose?
The master of comic fantasy, like Pulman Pratchett looks at some huge themes: the environment, utopia, past civilisations and the white western world’s destructive value system.
Some of these Pulman also touched on, adding his own fiercely anti-religious themes. In Nation, Pratchett seems to have returned more to the idea of the `Noble Savage’, posing it against White Western man’s aggression and greed.
Set on some fictional South Sea island, recently destroyed by a tsunami, the story carries more than a touch of The Tempest mixed with Robinson Crusoe, a Victorian fairy tale, and the idea of a paradise lost.
All of which could have amounted to a glorious transformative epic as this year’s seasonal ‘National’ treat. Still as designer, with Mark Friend, certainly achieves some magnificent visual moments, turning the back stage area into a huge underwater world where Mau, our young hero – an athletic and engaging Gary Carr – is seen to dive and engage with sharks. There is too a scabrously funny parrot – Jason Thorpe – given to unpredictable expletives whilst Emily Taaffe’s Daphne makes a touching journey from cosseted Victorian privilege to realisation of other ways to live.
Despite this, occasional post-colonial satirical swipes and a sweet finale in which Daphne and Mau part only to be one day reunited as two dolphins, Nation comes over too often as crude and patronising. A shame because its message about respect and the transitory nature of civilisations carries resonance and comes as a welcome antidote to our tunnel visioned assumption that our way is always and only the best.
Mau: Gary Carr.
Daphne: Emily Taaffe.
Milton, a Parrot: Jason Thorpe.
Captain Roberts: David Sterne.
Polegrave: Al Nedjari.
Foxlip: Michael Mears.
Cox: Paul Chahidi.
Mau’s Father: Bhasker Patel.
Daphne’s Grandmother: Gaye Brown.
Daphne’s Father: Nicholas Rowe.
Ataba: Ewart James Walters.
Pilu: Craig Stein.
Cahle: Sirine Saba.
Milo: David Ajala.
Marisgala: Lorna Gayle.
Locaha & Gentlemen of Last Resort: Elaine Claxton, Howard Gossington, Robert Hastie, Nick Malinowski, Michael Mears, David Sterne.
Islanders & Raiders: Elaine Claxton, Adrian Decosta, Mike Denman, Lorna Gayle, Nancy Wei George, Howard Gossington, Tony Hasnath, Robert Hastie, Amy Loughton, Michelle Lukes, Nick Malinowski, Michael Mears, Itxaso Moreno, Bhasker Patel, Nicholas Rowe, Gurpreet Singh, David Sterne.
Director: Melly Still.
Designers: Melly Still, Mark Friend.
Lighting: Paul Anderson.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Composer: Adrian Sutton.
Music Director: Martin Loiwe.
Projections: Jon Driscoll, Gemma Carrington.
Puppets/Puppetry: Yvonne Stone.
Choreographers: Nation Company; Happy Birthday Dance: Michelle Lukes; Spear Dance: Adrian Decosta & Mike Denman.
Costume: Dinah Collin.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson .
Fights: Paul Benzing.