The Last of the Duchess, another new play from Nicholas Wright, Travelling Light. Or, as I couldn't help thinking of it, Cinematographer on the Roof, since it sees Antony Sher channel his inner Tevye. Sometime in 1930s Hollywood, film-maker Maurice Montgomery (Paul Jesson) looks back on the early days of cinema when he was still called Motl Mendl, a minor journalist trapped in the almost-entirely Jewish village of his birth, in an unnamed part of Eastern Europe. (Christopher became rather fixated with figuring out the precise geographical location and was planning to scour the programme for clues. I was happy to accept that the story's fable-like nature meant the location was deliberately nebulous.) There, as he tells it, he more or less single-handedly created the motion picture industry.
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of amusing moments of gentle humour. But gentle is just it, Travelling Light is a pretty slight piece that feels lost on the Lyttelton stage. I found it a really odd choice of play for the National to be staging, with Nicholas Hytner himself directing. Funnily enough Christopher had the exact opposite comment, that he found it typical, light post-Christmas National fare. At the interval, though we both saw flaws and upsides to the play, Christopher seemed slightly more positive about it. By the end though we were pretty much in agreement that this was an idea that might just about carry a one-act play, but ran out of steam in a full-length one.
Travelling Light by Nicholas Wright is booking in repertory until the 6th of March at the National Theatre's Lyttelton; then touring to Salford, Leeds, Aylesbury and Newcastle.
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes including interval.