Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)


Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)


Article excerpt



Young Vic 66 The Cut, SE1 (0207-928 6363)

David Almond has triumphantly converted his magical, mystic children's novel from page to stage. Skellig's fusion of realism and fantasy, with flashes of angelic intervention when the air is possessed by people flying, casts a thorough, theatrical spell. An octet of fiveor six-year-olds opposite me watched in fascination and amazement. Their response served a striking reminder of how theatre released from realism's bond can entrance the young and old alike.

Skellig, set in Almond's Tyneside birthplace, begins as a conventional story of a husband and pregnant wife who move house with their son, Michael (Kevin Wathen, right, with Antony Byrne and Cathryn Bradshaw). But the dilapidated garage, made by designer John Napier into a petrified, grey mausoleum of sinister hangings, exerts an odd hold upon the boy. The dead bluebottles, pigeons and ancient newspapers are unsurprising relicts. But, in a moment of rare shock appeal, Michael lifts a tarpaulin and discovers an ancient tramp, with blank eyes and long, unkempt hair, for whom the wonderful David Threlfall supplies a voice of hoarse, parched weariness and the manner of a vintage complainer.

This is the famished Skellig, whom Threlfall makes a mixture of the human and other-wordly, as he slumps in a limbo between life and death.

For the empathetic Michael, this stranger becomes an anxious secret, shared only with Mina (Akiya Henry), his precocious, Blake-quoting young neighbour.

The play then grips the attention as a suspenseful narrative about the true identity and function of this stranger, ever complaining about 'arthuritis', and longing for Chinese takeaways.

In a thrilling scene of magic or divine intervention, Skellig's jacket is removed and his true potential is revealed, when Almond ingeniously relates the numinous and redemptive to the wordly: Michael's new-born sister, gravely ill with heart troubles, survives thanks to Skellig's intervention. …

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