Good With Maps (4 stars)

This article is from 2017

Good With Maps

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).

Good With Maps

  • 4 stars

Siren Theatre Co (Australia) When the world map was full of gaps, the Amazon basin topped the list of places unknown to explorers. On a trip to the Amazon, the writer ponders this and other questions, as she struggles to deal with her father’s journey through Parkinson’s towards our last great unknown – death. Sometimes…