Drama The Snow Goose: Mesmerising performance with minimal props

The Snow Goose: Mesmerising performance with minimal props

Director Jenine Collocott’s play is based on the classic novella by Paul Gallico, a story about a crippled man who comes to live on the southeast coast of England during World War II, and who saves the life of an injured goose. It is also a story of enormous individual heroism, the ability to be different in a hostile world, and the redeeming power of courage.

Gallico was famous for portraying ordinary people and how they overcame adversity in their small lives, and he did so with great pathos, humour and sensitivity. It would not be easy, therefore, to translate this subtlety to the stage, and it is to the enormous credit of Collocott and her cast, actors James Cairns and Taryn Bennett, that they pull it off without being mawkish or silly.

The props are minimal: a few packing crates and a table are shifted around to become a lighthouse, a sailboat, a village cottage, a post office, and the beaches of war-torn Dunkirk. The two actors are mesmerising in their main roles, but they also – by donning masks – become a large supporting cast of stock characters who provide much of the context and most of the humour.

James Cairns performs in The Snow Goose at Glennie Hall, Grahamstown 02 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. The play is adapted from the novella by Paul Gallico. Photo: CuePix / Jane Berg.

Using masks was a risky move, and in less skilful hands could have been grotesque, but Cairns and Bennett inhabit their characters so fully that the audience is totally immersed in the story. It helps to know a little bit about the background to the beginning of the World War II and the evacuation of Dunkirk, but it is not really necessary.

The story itself is such a human one (about love and courage and kindness) that it resonates as powerfully today as it would when it was first written.

The sheer strength of the script and the artistry of the acting will stay with you long after the festival is over.

By Nikki Moore
Cue guest writer

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