We’ve just seen into the New Year, and Christmas appears to be a thing of the past. It feels like a lifetime ago since mince pies seemed to be the treat of choice, festive playlists dominated department stores, tinsel seemed to brighten up many a home and mulled wine livened up the coldest of seasons. In Rachel Claye’s production on The Lighthouse, Christmas makes a subtler appearance with a narrative driven by loss, dreams and strong will.
On paper, The Lighthouse may seem like any another festive adventure set to show in the lead up to Christmas, in reality however, the piece outlives the shelf life of the festive season, and could easily be staged at any point in the year, and this already is a quality that is commendable. How do you take a tale of St Nikolas, and challenge what already has been presented to the world already? In the Lighthouse, St Nikolas finds himself stranded on an unforgivable land as his sleigh crash lands into the unknown. Unbeknownst to St Nikolas his fortunes may very well be switched around for the better by the smarts of a teenage girl left to watch over the crashing waves of an endless expanse in a Lighthouse that watches over those at sea. Claye presents St Nikolas, a legendary figure canonised in Christianity for his kindness to the poor, also known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus as a being a helpless human being. This so called magician, who can apparently conjure up anything he wishes for in the blink of an eye immediately starts the show trying to piece his broken life back together, not only in the literal sense with the breaking down of his sleigh, but also symbolically, trying to piece together his sense of identity. St Nikolas is presented as an authentic human being, and therefore consolidates the play’s longevity throughout the year.
Claye presents two characters, both longing for a sense of belonging, St Nikolas with his need to help others, but to also be loved, and Rose yearning for her father to return from an expedition that he’s now been on for a total of 3 months… with sadly no signs of returning from. Annabel Smith‘s book smart, Lighthouse smart, determined Rose is a creation symbolic of our times. A young, feisty intelligent female lead that will definitely be an inspiration to young girls watching the show. She is older than her years, showcasing an independence that helps guide Rafe Beckley‘s dishevelled St Nikolas to rebuilding his life. The two leads however are supported by a very important third member… the stage itself. As soon as the audience enter the space, a series of ropes cascading to the ground, tangled fishing nets adorning downstage, a swirling staircase leading to the Lighthouse’s peak, scaffolded compartments signifying different workspaces within the Lighthouse immediately take away the icy cold backdrop of the Isle of Dogs and transports the room to a harsh nautical landscape.
Claye’s writing is prominent throughout the piece, with thoughtful, well considered lyrical phrases, however speeches can often feel over written. Danielle McAllen presents an evening of authenticity, but with an atmosphere of solemnity that leaves me longing for merrier moments, small victories. The Lighthouse is a piece for all seasons, a deep show looking at what matters more than the commercialised Christmas we’ve all become accustomed to. 3.5/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
The Lighthouse is currently showing at the Space Theatre until Sunday 30th January. For more information on the production, visit here…