THE SUMMER BOOK
adapted by Jemma Kennedy from The Summer Book by Tove Jansson translated by Thomas Teal.
Unicorn Theatre 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 29 June 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm 22 June 5pm, Mat Wed, Sat & 29 June 2.30pm.
Audio-described/Captioned, June 28 2.30pm.
Runs: 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Carole Woddis 14 June,
Magical Finnish summer story.
Tove Jansson is one of Finland’s most famous exports, the Moomins – who will shortly be moving from Northampton’s Royal Theatre to the Polka – one of her enduring legacies for children. Among her many-faceted creations was a novel The Summer Book, aimed at a more adult audience and now adapted into a play for 6+.
Relationships between generations can be fraught, but one that offers nourishment and joy to both parties is often that between grandparents and their grandchildren. Skipping a generation and without the heavy responsibilities felt by an immediate parent, grand-child and grandparent are free to exchange youthful innocence and wonder for wisdom and experience at their leisure.
Not that in this instance, the grandmother in question, played by the wondrous Sara Kestelman, is without flaws. Refreshingly, she can be sharp, irritable – especially at the endless questions from Sophia, her young grand-daughter – but she is also by turns comforting, imaginative, knowledgeable and protective in the best sense of allowing her young charge freedom to discover.
The relationship that ensues is deftly, quietly drawn as Kestelman, stick in hand, visibly growing weaker – the script suggests she may be well into her 80s – carefully instructs her young charge in the natural wonders of the island – “remember the tide can bring things in as well as take away.”
Based on Jansson’s own summers with her family on an island off the coast of Finland, Douglas Rintoul’s production gives us suggestions of rock, sea-shore and a time spent together over a summer that doesn’t shirk from confronting the big subjects of death, disappointment, danger and love.
His production could perhaps have made more of evoking the colours and sounds of those long Scandinavian days, skies and Nature itself. But Kestelman’s profound skill at rendering depth and meaning in the smallest phrase keep its young audience occupied, while they perhaps also find easy identification with Amy Snudden’s Sophia, her questioning spirit, her fears of the unknown and her boredoms as much as her love of adventure and excitement.
A delicate, timeless tale that celebrates Jansson’s centenary with due respect and affection.
The Grandmother: Sara Kestelman.
Sophia: Sammy Foster, Amy Snudden.
Director: Douglas Rintoul.
Designer/Costume: Francesca Reidy.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin.
Sound: Helen Atkinson.
Voice coach: Annie Morrison.
Assistant director: Anne Stoffels.
First performance of this production of The Summer Book 7 June 2014 at Unicorn Theatre London.