Performed at the same time, in the same venue, in the room right next door; this show was always in direct competition to our own while we were on. It’s just as well we didn’t know how good it was at the time. That might have been a little bit disheartening.
These are not two characters one would immediately think to bring together, being from such apparently disparate works separated by three-hundred years of history. Nevertheless, the pairing works, and works wonderfully well; the blatant disparity between the two makes for a wonderful dynamic, and the subtler, not-so-apparent similarities create poignant, even tender moments in the piece.
While the writing, which is strong, eloquent, and engaging, is a large part of what makes this piece work, just as much credit is due to the actors. The interaction between Robin Ian HallSmith (Puck) and Nicole Palomba (Mowgli) is endlessly fascinating to watch, and both play their parts with such immersion and commitment that they truly do become these characters of classic literature, and do them as much justice as their original writers are owed. The performances are so natural and likable that I am even willing to overlook the consistent Disney-inspired mispronunciation of Mowgli’s name. (It’s ‘Mow-‘ as in ‘Now’, not ‘Mow-‘ as ‘Know’).
The set, despite being small, is gorgeous, as is the backing track of jungle-sounds that accompanies it. There are some wonderful choices made in terms of staging, blocking, and choreography in this production; the star-catching scene in particular was beautifully executed and delightful to watch. The movement of both actors also is careful, meticulous, and entirely in keeping with their characters. I would like to shake the hand of whoever choreographed the movement of this piece; it’s one of its most impressive elements.
I do always appreciate plays that stick firmly to the Aristotelian Unities, taking place at one time, in one place with one story. I like other styles of drama very much as well, often more so because they can be less limiting, but it’s always admirable when a play attempts to commit to the unities. Unfortunately, Changelings, like so many other plays of this kind, suffers a little in one key department. Pacing. There’s only so long an extended conversation between two characters can remain interesting; steps must be taken to ensure the action is kept energised to prevent things from slowing down. For the most part, Changelings does manage this. There are spots where it slows down, just after the beginning and in the middle for example, but largely the energy is maintained and the action keeps moving.
This was a very original story, and very well executed. It was obviously done with a lot of love and respect for the two respective works from which it draws, and never strays to far from those origins either. The reveal near the end actually caused my friend and me, both big A Midsummer Night’s Dream fans, to gasp out loud once we clocked what it meant. I’m glad this play continued to run after my own had finished, so I was finally given the chance to see it.