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From The National Theatre to Aylesbury: Antony Sher stars
WITH silent movies being the talk of the arts world, Nicholas Wright's play, Travelling Light, featuring theatre great, Antony Sher could not have come at a better time. The show, which is currently at The National Theatre in London, will be coming to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre at the end of March. Rebecca Cain talks to Sher about his own personal connection with the story.
Travelling Light isn't the easiest show to break down into a synopsis. It focuses on a Jewish community around 1900 and has a great sense of humour running throughout but at the same time is very touching and moving.
The show is set in a remote shtetl in Eastern Europe where the young Motl Mendl is entranced by the flickering silent images on his father’s cinematograph. Bankrolled by timber merchant Jacob and inspired by Anna, the girl sent to help him make moving pictures of their village, he stumbles on a revolutionary way of story-telling. Forty years on, Motl - now a famed American film director - looks back on his early life and confronts the cost of fulfilling his dreams.
Sher plays Jacob. He said: "There are bits in the play that certainly resonated with me about leaving home- having an emotional tug that is completely irresistible."
Throughout out the young Motl, who is played by Damien Molony, is overcome with emotion about leaving home but yet spends his life away from it.
Sher said: "That rings very true for me. I go back to South Africa- particularly as I get older- and is sort of more and more meaningful and I have been away for a long time. I left home in 1968."
The actor, who was recently in acclaimed BBC2 crime drama, The Shadow Line, also said the story resonates with his own personal history.
He said: "Several parts of it again is my own history. My grandparents came from Eastern Europe, from Lithuania, and two of them came from the same shtetl called Plunge. About 1990 the National Studio went on a cultural visit to Lithuania and part of me going along with this group was to arrange for the National to help me get to Plunge, which they did very generously."
He added: "Unbelievably I got to go back to see this place that my people were from which they would never have believed as they left as shamed, second class people because they were Jewish and there was much anti Semitism, much fear of the Pogroms that were in Poland at that time...I'm talking about 1890s. They would not believe that one day a Sher would come back there out of fascination and interest. It was very moving. That part of it was very meaningful for me."
Sher also said he enjoyed stepping away from his usual role. He said: "The part- the role of Jacob was something very different for me so I just immediately wanted to do it for that. I don't normally get to play people like him. His kind of earthiness, in a way his honesty. I tend to play a lot of psychopaths."
Writer Nicholas Wright said it wasn't until rehearsals for the play started that he heard about The Artist and he couldn't believe it when he heard there was a film being made about early silent movies, although he said actually it didn't matter too much.
So what does he think is the appeal with silent movies? "Movies have got so technical now and artificial and so full of effects that aren't real... I think the life has gone out of the acting...I think film acting has got a bit sterile and a bit formulaic and a little bit dull. In silent film, like in The Artist, people use their whole bodies.. I think people are really enjoying the acting as it is so full blooded and so athletic."
Travelling Light will run at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from March 27-31. Tickets range from £10-£27. Call 0844 8717607 or visit www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury