Good With Maps
- David Kettle
- 3 August 2017
Complex, deeply rewarding theatre on journeys into the unknown
Nikolai Gogol, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf: these and plenty more get namechecked in writer Noëlle Janaczewska's unashamedly intellectual solo show from Australia's Siren Theatre. Actor Jane Phegan gives a brisk, ideally pitched performance as Janaczewska, so bewitched by the uncharted wildness of the Amazon that she embarks on a voyage of discovery, while shuttling back and forth between Australia and Hertfordshire to care for her ailing father.
There's a lot going on: Janaczewska's script darts between psychogeography and literary references, the perils of suburban life and the slow debilitation of Parkinson's. But it's never less than ringingly clear in its quicksilver connections – and, best of all, wears its considerable learning very lightly with gags and gracefulness. In the end, not all of Good with Maps' copious themes coalesce, but by its heartfelt conclusion the show's provocative intellectual explorations have come to mirror Janaczewska's Amazonian voyage – and the very different journey into the unknown being taken by her father.
Director Kate Gaul keeps the pace flowing nimbly, but Nate Edmondson's soundtrack, effective though it is, feels rather overwhelming, and signposts the show's moods obviously. Nevertheless, this is a complex, deeply rewarding piece of theatre, one that balances cerebral exuberance with shattering emotional power.
C primo, until 28 Aug (not 14), 5.30pm, £9.50–£11.50 (£7.50–£9.50).