VISUALLY stunning and emotionally resonant, this interpretation of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel charts the imprisonment and subsequent escape of Ma and her son Jack.
As in the film version of 18 months ago, the play details their shocking incarceration at the hands of “Old Nick” and their attempts to deal with the emotional weight of liberation into the world.
The great tragedy here is that freedom is almost as difficult to deal with as imprisonment but the hope offered by Ma and Jack’s love is a moving antithesis to the horror of their kidnapping.
Cora Bissett’s production and Donoghue’s script gives physical flesh to the subtleties of the text through the wonderful staging and performances.
The loss of the novel’s narrative voice is overcome by the deployment of the character Big Jack (Fela Lufadeju), a narrator figure who lets us into Jack’s inner world. Lufadeju is hugely impressive, creating a strong bond with the audience and managing to capture Jack’s wonder, creativity, imagination and fear.
Music and songs by Bissett and Kathryn Joseph further illuminate the inner worlds of the characters, allowing them to express themselves in moments where they are otherwise unable.
This works powerfully when Ma struggles to maintain a happy world for Jack and later as her son struggles to come to terms with the outside world.
Lily Arnold’s evocative design, with a thoughtful use of perspective, effectively conjures the shift from confinement, ably supported by Andrzej Goulding’s video design.
The soaring central performance from Witney White as Ma offers a complex and nuanced portrayal — playful one minute, terrified the next, in which she shows us the horror of her character’s situation and makes telling use of the emotional possibilities the songs offer.