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4 stars for The Way Back Home in Irish Times

28
Oct
2014

Review: The Way Back Home

Oliver Jeffers’ book jumps off the page and into space in this beautiful stage adaptation

Sara Keating

  • Thu, Oct 2, 2014, 15:53

 

First published:

Wed, Oct 1, 2014, 14:00
The Way Back Home

The Ark

****

An imaginative young boy takes a flight of fantasy to the moon in The Way Back Home, a stage adaptation of Oliver Jeffers’ picture-book of the same name. The play is produced by Branar Teatar and Teater Refleksion, who fill in the subtext of Jeffers’ distinctively drawn stripy-jumpered character with several playful scenes that illustrate his boredom. We see him beached on an island (a clever reference to the earlier Jeffers’ book Lost and Found), then embroiled in a battle with his bed, which is only resolved when the bed becomes an airplane and he phut-phut-phuts into space.

This is a non-verbal performance and the first few scenes exploit a rich vein of physical humour before launching the boy into his extraterrestrial adventure. The simple design by Mariann Aagaard effectively recreates Jeffers picture-book visuals with some extra twists. However, the tone of Jeffers’ whimsical story is greatly enhanced by the emotional expressiveness of the two central characters – the boy and his Martian friend – while a subtle original soundtrack enhances the lunar landscape.

If there is any flaw in this beautiful, touching and playful production, it is the over-estimation of the expected audience’s level of engagement. The Way Back Home is pitched at a 3+ audience, but the abstracted aesthetic, spare soundscape and concentrated visual focus is too much for a preschool demographic to take on, even for those familiar with the original text. Rooting the boy within a more recognisable world would help younger audience members immensely, but it would also spoil exactly what it is that makes this production really special.

Ends Saturday

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