The Lighthouse – The Space, London

Writer: Rachel Claye
Director: Danielle McIlven
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman


It is a strange sensation to come to a Christmas show that is opening after Twelfth Night. But one can understand The Space wanting to put this show on now, rather than waiting another 11 months. Rachel Claye’s script touches on issues of family and devotion that resonate year round, as well as shining a light on the saint whose story only later mutated into the mythology of Santa Claus.

Set in a remote lighthouse in which Nikolas (Rafe Beckley) takes refuge after his sleigh breaks down, Faye Bradley’s ingenious set design crafts the sense of a cramped space where every element must fulfil multiple purposes. Built up from a variety of flotsam and jetsam, throughout the show, it reveals more hidden surprises in a way that is utterly charming.

Beckley’s Nikolas is far closer to the European interpretation of Saint Nick and his role in Christmas traditions than the jolly, red-clad obesity of the Coca Cola-inspired Santa. His cranky, sarcastic air contrasts nicely with the relentless optimism of the fourteen-year-old lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Rose (Annabel Smith) who comes to his aid. As he explores the mystery behind why Rose is on her own in the lighthouse, his own origins are explored, both through expository dialogue that could have been lifted from an encyclopaedia of saints, but more effectively through a selection of flashbacks in which Beckley becomes the child and Smith the adult.

It is the growing sense of why Rose is alone, and her increasingly desperate ways to avoid the topic, that gives this piece its most powerful emotional punches. While Smith rarely convinces as a 14-year-old, she is nonetheless able to convey her sense of isolation and her reluctance to admit the direness of her situation to the saint that is her guest.

In this presentation, there is maybe not enough variation in temperament, with lighter moments and darker segments played a little too similarly. And as a single act it is a little overlong, with some speeches and flashbacks covering the same ground. But as playwright Claye’s debut production, it is an assured start – and should see this play develop further in time for a more seasonal scheduling in Christmases to come.

Runs until 30 January2016 | Image: Contributed

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