A wistfulness seems to be gripping 2012 for times long gone. Nostalgia for the golden era of the silver screen. We seem to be reviving a love affair with silent film and it has to be said – I’m loving every minute of it.

The history of how modern cinema developed is very fascinating, however I shall not bore you with it here (next time, Editors!). Nicholas Wright’s Travelling Light has hit the theatre at just the right time. What with The Artist doing well not only in the cinema but also winning every award at every film awards ceremony across the globe, this love letter to silent films and the development of modern cinema will be received by audiences with more affection than perhaps before. The Artist has whet the appetite of people who may not have considered silent films before, or even had an appreciation of the art form.

The Travelling Light

So, what is Travelling Light about? An old man reflects on his life and how he started his career in making films. Based in a little village that is predominantly Jewish, it tells the story of Motl Mendl, a young man who leaves his sleepy, dull village but alas has to come back when his Father dies. He is about to escape his stifling village for what he hopes to be the last time after paying his respects. That is, until he finds his Fathers’ cinematograph and changes his life forever.

The play is largely a comedy about a young pretentious man thinking he knows best about the world, and as an old man reflecting on his early life. His early views on cinematography are that people should not be the subject for films as it would cheapen something so wonderful as motion picture. His view is that cinema should be a higher art form and should capture the beauty of the world, such as the flight of birds or the crashing of waves upon a beach. However the people of his village have very different ideas. Hilarity ensues.

The idea that movies should be something more is a theme that runs through the play, and I think what is captured nicely is it, maybe there is nothing more wonderful that normal people going about their normal lives. You don’t have to change the world to be important.

This is a comedy, taking a lot of its humour from the villagers who so aggravate Motl by having their say as to how he should shoot his films, or subtle jokes on how Hollywood runs. It will have you laughing out loud throughout. But like all great comedies it takes a turn and becomes quite dark in places. Travelling Light has a wonderfully dark twist, but I shall say no more. You have to see it for yourself.

The cast were all outstanding but special mentions go to Damien Molony, who plays the young Motl and Antony Sher, who plays Jacob Bindel, funder of Motl films. I have to mention the set pieces for this film, as they are as crucial as the wonderful words of Nicholas Wright. It’s worth it to see them alone. The set is also stunning. Knock your socks off kinda stunning.

Set Design Travelling Light

Finally, the venue I had the pleasure of seeing Travelling Light in was The Lowry in Salford. There are galleries as well as the theatre and all sorts of brilliant stuff goes on there. If you live in or around the Manchester area or are visiting, I highly recommend you visit The Lowry.

Travelling Light is a National Theatre production, and you can now see it in London across April, May and June. Book tickets here.

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