Nicholas Wright’s Travelling Light was at Leeds Grand Theatre Tuesday 20th – Saturday 24th March as part of the National Theatre On Tour. What was most enchanting was the ironic setting of the stage portraying the beginnings of motion picture and Hollywood movies. The lead – Motl Mendl is played by Irish actor Damien Molony of Being Human. Molony graduated from the Drama Centre only last year and was since cast as vampire Hal for season four of television series Being Human. Motl is a young aspiring journalist who returned home to his aunt Tsippa following the death of his father, the resident photographer. On discovering a motion picture camera and projector flickering lantern arrangement (Cinematographe Lumiere) amongst his father’s possessions, he became wildly intrigued with the beauty of the images he witnessed.
The story is set around the dawn of the 20th century in a ‘shtetl’ in Eastern Europe, meaning ‘small town’ in Yiddish, which were majority Jewish communities. Motl had run away from his home in the shtelt aged just 15 and was eager to leave once again – camera in tow.
Before Motl had chance to flee, Jason Bindel the timber merchant arrived with his family for a photograph before his son Aron had to leave for duty. Aunt Tsippa convinced Motl to take the photograph in place of his deceased father; this is the moment that Jason discovers the amazement of motion picture.
An unintelligent, but rich man, Jason convinces young Motl to stay in the shtetl to produce pictures of the local men, women and children, if he finances them. Jason’s passion for motion picture derives from his dismay at his day to day struggle to communicate with words; the silent moving images were fascinating for him. Motl finds himself falling in love with his assistant Anna Mazowieka, played by Lauren O’Neill, from match.com’s ‘girl on the platform’ advert. Anna is somewhat understated on the stage, her character really comes to life on the projector – to tie perfectly with the storyline she really is beautiful on camera.
The story is narrated throughout by Paul Jesson as Maurice Montgomery, an older Motl Mendel who changed his name when becoming a Hollywood movie director, which is an insightful addition to the story line. Overall, a beautiful encounter of early motion picture, with an intriguing love affair and portrayal of business struggles.
Score: 4/5 Roses