Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Skellig - Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Based on the book by David Almond
Director: Phil Clark
Reviewer: Sarah Lyth

When did you last wonder at the simple gift of being alive?

The Birmingham Stage Company pose this question subtly and beautifully as they weave the story of Michael and his family in their presentation of David Almond’s Skellig. The audience are diverted from the ordinariness of everyday living and are reminded that they, like the characters in the play, are truly extraordinary beings.

Moving into a new house should have been an adventure but young Michael soon finds himself wandering around in a world of anxiety and bleakness as his baby sister becomes very ill. As his parents spend their time at the hospital, Michael explores the derelict garage and meets a creature who is lingering amidst the scuttling beetles and ancient cobwebs that are hanging on the old tea chests and suitcases. As Michael and his new friend Mina explore their worlds with the wonder and belief reminiscent of William Blake’s divine visions, the lives of all of the characters are transformed through the magic of love and life.

The scene was set in a complex pile of seemingly old rubbish designed cleverly and intricately to hide and reveal the innards of the garage as the story progressed. As Michael and Mina explored the trees, they were immersed in a delicate green glow. The revelation of the creature’s origins was accompanied magically through the precise use of torchlight to direct the action and a panning out to a wonderful starry night that seemed to go on forever. The chorus accompanied the action beautifully, the Birmingham Stage Company characteristically using flute, violin, accordion, guitar and voices to layer the experience of each scene with depth of sounds including the beating of hearts, the clicking of hospital machines and the passengers on a bus. Mesmerising!

The Company melted and moved into different characters with ease and power. Dean Logan and Charlotte Sanderson admirably portrayed the immediacy of childhood curiosity, passion and pain with great feeling and energy. Neal Foster’s Skellig was both fearsome and awesome in the same breath, projecting the fragility of being human and the potential for human greatness and transformation amidst the reality of the raw grit that existence on our earth demands.

As the flutter of the fledgling blackbirds, the hooting of the owls and the glittering of the stars faded away I am sure that the many people who were watching, spellbound, in the Lyceum auditorium this evening followed Skellig out into the streets of Sheffield with hearts of fire, owners of a rekindled belief that they too could love and live and dream and fly in the (extra) ordinariness of their days.

runs until 24th Oct
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