THE MYSTERIOUS VANISHMENT OF POBBY & DINGAN
by Finegan Kruckemeyer adapted from the novel by Ben Rice.
Travelling Light Tour to 24 November 2012.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 November at Unicorn Theatre (Clore auditorium) London.
Serious stuff sensitively handled.
For once, Travelling Light might be thought to be travelling quite heavy. There’s the corrugated panels suggesting the Australian prospector’s shack where Kellyanne and brother Ashmol live, looking for opals. And there’s the theme of mortality, which begins with the search for the title characters, young Kellyanne’s invisible friends.
Older Ashmol is dismissive of these non-existent beings at first, but joins a search that ends unhappily. Then, skilfully, the theme transfers to members of the family, ending with a late shock, its acceptance onstage strangely comforting.
For light pervades the play. The night is finally lit with stars. Death leaves the memory of friendship and affection: a refusal to simply mourn becomes a deep-felt but positive celebration of life.
Around this, Tasmanian writer Finegan Kruckemeyer’s adaptation enables Craig Edwards’ well-judged production to create a sense of a family, while by starting with Ashmol’s imagined discovery of a valuable opal – his sense of justice demands he should find one – the interworking of imagination and reality allows dismissive responses to be fielded early.
There’s also a strong sense of the prospecting community’s ethics. By innocently breaking one of its rules the children’s father is disgraced; part of the play’s climb to its seriously positive conclusion is their happiness when he recovers his status.
All this works by stimulating the audience’s imaginations. Vic Llewellyn and Jordan Whyte are well cast as distinctively mature for the young character’s roles – it helps whenever a parent is needed, while Llewellyn’s bushy beard and Whyte’s costume provide a Brechtian distance infusing the story they create, focusing reality on the characters’ feelings and actions.
Ron Phelan moves into the part of a line-dancing caller (where Ashmol sends out a message about the missing undermined by amplified feedback in one of the few comic moments) and clergyman, but predominantly creates lively banjo music, and even more predominantly a dreamlike double-bass score intensifying the elegiac sections, including the starry end. Which should undoubtedly be schmaltz but, with the reality of the siblings and the firm integrity of production and performances, is intensely moving for the show’s 9+ audience – adults included.
Ashmol: Vic Llewellyn.
Kellyanne: Jordan Whyte.
Musician: Ron Phelan.
Director: Craig Edwards.
Designer: Katie Sykes.
Composer: Sarah Moody.
Lighting: Jo Woodcock.