Get a personalised letter from Santa

Review: Travelling Light

PUBLISHED: 17:40 27 January 2012

Antony Sher as Jacob Bindel

Antony Sher as Jacob Bindel

Archant

Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre **

Travelling Light takes Motl Mendl from his East European shetl to Hollywood greatness in a rags-to-riches story that should tug at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, for a script laden with cliché and sentimentality, it’s all strings and no heart.

Is this a play about Jewishness or a play about the birth of film? It can’t make up its mind, so the two strands run in parallel rather than meshing to create a whole. For a theatrical event looking at cinematic accomplishment it is strangely undramatic in both mediums.

Antony Sher is the star turn in Nicholas Hytner’s production. As the illiterate timber mill owner, Jacob Bindel, Sher gives us an older man whose ruddy exterior and avuncular concerns mask a brilliant mind that immediately grasps the potential of film to tell stories.

Damien Molony’s unimaginative, ungracious Motl lacks any endearing qualities and the opportunity for dramatic tension offered by the men’s shared love interest, Anna (Lauren O’Neil), is wasted on mooning and bufooning.

Where Nicholas Wright’s script succeeds is in charting the early development of cinema in fine, technical detail. There are lots of jokes around finance, audience response and storylines; but implicit in the narrative is the idea that Jewish experience, rather than human experience expressed in Jewish culture, is what brings the early films alive. It’s pure schmaltz.

The detail would not matter if the play was more absorbing, but despite a number of laugh-aloud moments, it is as one-dimensional as

its concerns are three-dimensional. The staging – more space is

given to the set and the backdrop sky that doubles as a screen than to the cast – reinforces the feeling that what is lacking is depth.

As a jolly romp through the early days of film, Travelling Light is a good night out. As good theatre, it isn’t.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

The England midfielder discussed his recent extra responsibility in the Spurs side and talented youngster Oliver Skipp

10:41

Keir Starmer has said the government’s approach to Universal Credit is similar to the “hostile environment” policy that led to the Windrush scandal.

43 minutes ago

Tips on where to stay and what to eat in Dublin courtesy of our travel writer, Sophie Ritchie.

Evo-Stik South Premier South: Hendon 5 (Calcutt 23, 47, Hippolye-Patrick 54, 63, 81) Staines Town 1 (Khanye 79)

Bostik Premier: Brightlingsea Regent 0 Wingate & Finchley

13:01

A Cumbrian couple have been left scared for their property after receiving a bailiff’s letter demanding council tax for a Maida Vale property they have no connection to.

12:26

Barnet Council has apologised to residents after bungled changes to bin collections saw households going nearly two weeks without having them emptied

09:52

A passing mechanic saved the day after a “rogue Diwali firework” set the roof of a Hornsey bar on fire a week ago last Thursday.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now