Review of NT live’s Nation

Posted on January 31, 2010 by

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A love than transcends language.

“A parallel world, 1986. A devastating Tsunami has thrown together two teenagers from different sides of the world.”

First, an explanation of what NT Live do. NT Live do live performances of plays at the National Theatre in London. These performances are then broadcast live to thousands of other cinemas and theatres across the world live. What results in a surreal blend of theatre and cinema that provides all the brilliance of live performance and all the benefits of cinema, like varying camera angles, a big budget and the sort of effects that you just don’t get in normal theatre productions.

Nation is based on the Novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett, first published in 2008. It was his first non-discworld book since Johnny and the bomb in 1996, and was aimed at young adults. It told the story of Mau, lone survivor of an enormous tsunami, as he tries to rebuild his nation, and Daphne, an English girl who was shipwrecked by the same wave while voyaging to Port Mercia to join her father, the governor. Over the course of the book, more survivors arrive on the Nation, expecting it to have survived intact and finding only Mau and the strange, pale ghost girl. Mau dedicates his time and energy to saving the Nation, rising it from the ashes, and happens upon a discovery that could change the world.

Despite being aimed at a younger audience, Nation didn’t shy away from big issues- Survivors guilt, Life, Death, Coming of age, Belief and faith. Mark Ravenhill has adapted the book superbly into a play.

The direction is energetic without being distracting, the music is moving without overstepping its bounds, the effects are excellent and the story translates brilliantly from the page to the stage. Very few elements are excised from the original book, and their loss doesn’t affect the flow of the narrative. I would say however that in the early scenes might be confusing to people who had not read the book beforehand.

Of course, you can write any amount of fine words, but it all falls down to the people who have to say them to bring the words to life, and the cast of Nation are, without exception, excellent. Gary Carr and Emily Taaffe have wonderful and believable chemistry as Mau and Daphne, and bring vivid life to their characters. Jason Thorpe as Milton the parrot provides the majority of the humour throughout without fowl-mouthed (haha) outbursts as well as making a surprisingly believable parrot. With a total cast of 27, Nation brings significantly more people to the stage at once than many other plays, although thanks to the direction, which includes an enormous circular spinning stage allows for scene transitions in seconds, and flying wires for underwater scenes.

The major themes of Nation- Death, Faith and Love, translate smoothly to the stage and make the production just as moving and, in places emotional, as the book. While not necessarily suitable for younger children, NT live’s production of Nation was a magical events that brought new life to the story and, I hope, new followers to the writings of Pratchett himself.

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Posted in: Theatre