Review – The Snow Goose: a story well worth re-telling

2013-07-05 14:44

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Published in 1941, Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose is a product of its time, yet it has always transcended it.

Under the clever direction of hot-property director Jenine Collocott, Gallico’s story soars. With the significant talents of James Cairns and Taryn Bennett, masterfully swapping faces (literally) to play all the story’s characters, the story of the unlikely friendship between two people over an injured snow goose thrown off course over pre-war England is brought vividly to life.

In an interview for her alma mater, AFDA, Collocott says that the challenge of today’s theatre makers is to bring theatre to audiences and the usual bugbear – funding. A production like this overcomes both problems and fulfils Collocott’s desire to keep theatre “technically simple and theatrically vibrant”.

A few wooden crates, a wooden table and a circular wooden platform on which to perform completes the set.

Cairns and Bennett do all the set changes themselves as the lights go down between scenes – always in character, an example of the little touches that make this such well put together theatre.

Despite the Spartan set, the pair manage to conjure up on stage the wet, windy marsh and small fishing village on the coast of England as well as the lighthouse where Philip lives, hunchbacked and ostracised by his community only for looking “twisted”, also the village and the strange assortment of folk who live there.

This adaptation, done collaboratively by the actors and director, tempers the sentimentality that Gallico was unapologetic about writing with humour.

It is in the brief historical context news reports delivered in hilarious BBC English and human touches like the rather mean-spirited, nosy postmistress also singing Edith Piaf at the top of her voice when she thinks she’s alone that add laughter to this poignant story.

The Snow Goose will always be relevant though the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk and the “miracle of Dunkirk” that informs it is ancient history because its themes are ageless.

Courage has always been found in the most unlikely of places, friendship has been born out of stranger things than a shared desire to see an injured bird fly again and love can be found in a grand gesture or a small one, but it is love all the same.

I wish this production wings – it is a story well worth retelling.

» The Snow Goose is on today and tomorrow at The Drill Hall at 8pm at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. It will then travel to Wits in Joburg for the best of the fest 969 Festival (July 16, 17 and 18, Wits Amphitheatre at 7.30pm) before going to Cape Town's Kalk Bay Theatre.

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