30 January 2010: Ravenhill, Nation

Based on a novel by Terry Pratchett, adapted by Mark Ravenhill. Directed by Melly Still. National Theatre broadcast live via satellite. Amherst Cinema, Amherst, MA

Very tall on special effects, heart-throbbing romantic love, daredevil rescues, and soul-satisfying reunions. Not so tall on ideas, but then that’s not what the Pratchett novel was about and that’s not what this adaptation is about either. This is “family entertainment” at its best. I must be in a critical mood, but sometime I’d like to see something like this that is fun for all the family and yet moves us to think about hard questions. This one could have gotten us to reflect about what can go awry when a member of an indigenous tribe falls in love with the daughter of Caucasian interlopers shipwrecked on a South Pacific isle. We know from the start it’s going to turn out well, and so we are free to enjoy the scenery; but it could have been otherwise. There is much to entertain, admittedly, including a foul-mouthed parrot, while we watch the evidently beneficent effect (again, no questioning of time-honored truths here) of the efforts of Mau and Daphne, pretty much all by themselves, though neither is yet sixteen, to forge a new nation. This is the age of nationalism, after all — or one of them, the latest — and the presump­tion seems to be that, once forged, all will be well with that new nation, despite much of the history of the world to the contrary. (Consider the former Yugoslavia. Consider the present Middle East.)

Much good direction here, all in support of clear, earnest performances and a triumph of scenic bravado such as the National Theatre may never have seen before. 2 hours 35 minutes, with a very welcome twenty-minute interval.


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An American Playgoer at Home by Joseph Donohue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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