The Mancunion

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Review: Narvik

A truly haunting and mesmerising play by Lizzie Nunnery

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Narvik is a play that features songs written by Lizzie Nunnery. The play revolves around the central character Jim Callaghan (played by Joe Shipman), a liverpudlian sailor who is reminiscing about his life during world war two, a man who sailed under the Royal Navy to liberate the Norwegian port of Narvik in April 1940.

The play begins with Jim as a 90 year old man clearly coming to the end of his life, who falls and struggles to get back up all alone. The physicality by Shipman to showcase the pain and weariness of the 90 year old version of Jim is outstanding.

Throughout the play the actors physicality was beautifully used to create haunting and memorable images.  The story reminisces about Jim’s Norwegian sweetheart Else Dahl (played by Nina Yndis), who he meet before the war but keeps in mind throughout.

The other major character is Kenny Atwood (played by Lucas Smith), who was Jim’s naval comrade and best friend during the war. All these memories are interwoven throughout the play along with recollections about his parents. All three actors and the three actor-musicians remain on stage at all times.

The 90 minute play certainly packs a punch and takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions as it revolves around love and war. The fact there is no interval means the audience are really drawn into the world of the characters, along with the exceptional acting of the three actors.

Shipman carries the show and his seemingly effortless switch between child to man to old age continuously throughout the play is a pleasure to behold. Shipman has to be commended for his physical encapsulation of his character as with a simple body shift the audience were quickly transported to a different memory in a different time period.

Smith was able to carry an easy charm and was the source of most laughs. This cheerful character clearly had a troubled past and Smith was able to showcase both aspects to keep the character from simply being one dimensional. Yndis had a mysterious nature, which resulted in a truly haunting end with the last physical pose leaving a truly unforgettable image.

Music is integral to this play.  The few songs, which I would classify as folk, are entwined into the play. They add to heighten the emotions that drive this play. Yet the music does not simply stop and start again. The musicians create a stream of music to accompany the acting, from creating the atmosphere of a naval boat wading across the sea to the upbeat nature of a drinking tavern.

Melodies mysteriously appear and disappear seamlessly it is a testament to both the incredible talents of Lizzie Nunnery and the band (Vidar Norheim, Maz O’Connor, Joe Hirons). The seemingly effortless use of music definitely sets this play apart from others.

The play explores the themes about what actions are acceptable during war and what can be forgiven and forgotten. Is the war real or is it simply an illusion before you get back to real life. The staging was simple yet extremely effective as the box shaped piping allowed for all cast members to weave around the set.

There was no set changes. Different locations and time periods were instead highlighted by a simple light change. Yet this was not a drawback of the play. Instead the simplicity aloud the audience to be truly engrossed and not distracted as the play seamlessly moved though time and different locations.

Director Hannah Tyrell-Pinder’s production for Box of Tricks is truly mesmerising. It is both chilling and haunting. There was more than a few tears flowing by the end of the performance. Narvik is at Home till the 4th of February as part of its national tour. Tickets can be found here.