Trick of The Light and Zanetti Productions brings a haunting tale for children aged 8-13years, all the way from New Zealand.
The Road That Wasn’t There begins in near-darkness. Clues to the story are already lying in wait: maps are hanging from clothes lines strung across the stage area and piles of cardboard boxes can just be glimpsed by the dim light of a couple of table lamps. Teachers trying to herd crowds of school-kids into their seats are cursing the darkness, their convenience has been sacrificed, but a spooky ambience has successfully been created.
The story begins in light-hearted fashion, with a young man being continually interrupted from his repetitive work by phone calls reporting that his mother is doing unusual and concerning things. Mostly, she is taking maps – tearing pages of maps out of library books or even stealing them from shops. Eventually his mother will explain the whole story to him, but not before a few peculiar incidents have occurred.
Complementing the live action with puppetry and silhouette projection (the largest map on the clothes line doubling as a projection screen), the young man is told the story of how his mother and father found and then lost each other forever, in a town at the end of a road that only existed on one map, once upon a time. The tale is a little ghostly and a little strange, with a sense of the uncanny. The ending is slightly unexpected, but satisfying (no spoilers!).
The story is intriguing, yet meanders off on tangential threads that don’t all tie in to the main plot. A sharper focus and a little editing would allow the sometimes mesmerising storytelling to really shine. And while the use of puppetry appropriately ushers in the feel of the preternatural, some awkward staging and too-dim lighting fails to make the most of this.
This is a production that has great potential that is frustratingly not quite realised.
Ran 30th May – 1st June