A strange, ragged old man with a beard and a reindeer has broken his sleigh as part of a crash landing on an iceberg. His only hope of rescue seems to be a 14 year old child out in her old boat in the stormy weather. Welcome to Rachael Claye’s play The Lighthouse at The Space on the Isle of Dogs.
It’s Christmas Eve and Nikolas (Rafe Beckley) has a problem. Wrapped up in fur, he is marooned on a glacier with only a reindeer and a broken sled for company. Pondering his rather limited options, he pulls various objects out of a bag he is holding, but none of them seem to be of any use. Just then, he sees a light and around the glacier appears a boat being expertly controlled by a young girl (Annabel Smith). The girl introduces herself and offers to take Nikolas off the glacier, which is slowly shedding bits of itself into the water. Eventually, Rose combined with a large chunk of iceberg heading south convince Nikolas to join her and the two of them (complete with reindeer and broken sled) make their way to the lonely lighthouse that Rose shares with her father who is currently not around. As he takes in the lighthouse, Nikolas has flashbacks to his own time as a child when he and his cousin sneaked into the Patara Lighthouse and the events surrounding his younger life – many, many years ago. One of Rose’s few possessions is a large old book dedicated to the lives of a certain group of people and she quickly believes there is more to Nikolas than he is giving away. Having said that, Rose herself has secrets, ones that worry her and that she is afraid of anyone ever finding out. Between the two of them, can they discover the truth about each other and if they do, what will be the effects on both their lives?
Before saying anything else about The Lighthouse I really want to praise the wonderful multi-level set by Designer Faye Bradley which is absolutely superb and, when combined with lighting (Anna Sbokou) and sound (Keri Danielle Chesser) brings the locus in quo (as a lawyer would say) to life beautifully. The story itself is really nice and although I sort of guessed the ending, the journey there was not made using the most obvious route thanks to some some great writing. Both actors – under the direction of Danielle McIlven – worked well together and brought their characters to life nicely. The world weary Nikolas looking for a real reason to keep on doing what he does and the enthusiastic, seemingly very confident, Rose who, if I’m honest I had down as a potential serial killer from the start, not a spoiler but she definitely isn’t. Having said that, neither of these characters turned out to be who I thought they were at the start.
So, all in all, The Lighthouse is an impressive show in many respects. A really lovely story told over one act with a running time of just over an hour, it keeps the audience hooked right from the start. By the end, I was invested enough in Nikolas and Rose’s stories – both as individuals and together – to wish them both all the best on wherever their lives take them now.
Review by Terry Eastham
It’s Christmas Eve and a grumpy old saint – who just happens to have a reindeer and magical sack – crash lands his sleigh on an iceberg far out at sea.
Stranded at the frozen edge of the world, Nikolas is soon rescued by Rose, a fourteen year old girl determined to save even the most begrudging of lost mariners. When he agrees to travel to Rose’s lighthouse to fix his sleigh, it soon becomes clear that this magical building contains both memories and secrets. What echoes does it hold from Nikolas’s past? Why is Rose burning books and toys for fuel? And most importantly, where is her father, the Lighthouse Keeper?
Uplifting, hopeful and magical, The Lighthouse is a story of two lost people – a young girl on the brink of disaster and an old man who has forgotten his way. As each emerges unwillingly from isolation and denial, they must find a way forward together.
Rachael Claye’s beautiful new Christmas story premieres at the Space after an Arts Council funded research & development showing earlier this year. The production is sponsored by Franklyn James.
Cast and Crew Biographies
Writer – Rachael Claye
Director – Danielle McIlven
Lighting Designer – Anna Sbokou
Designer – Faye Bradley
Sound Designer – Keri Danielle Chesser
Rose – Annabel Smith
Nikolas – Rafe Beckley
Suitable for ages 8+
9th – 31st January 2016
7:30pm (2pm matinees)