As a job description ‘parrot’ can’t strike an actor as the most marvellous of parts to land, but as with all previous birds at the National Theatre, this parrot is almost the best in the whole play. Almost. The vultures aren’t exactly lovely, but cleverly done. But as I said, Milton the parrot, played by Jason Thorpe was loved by all.
And for all ladies currently swooning over a certain vampire actor, I can recommend Gary Carr, who is Mau in Nation. As Daphne, the young English girl says when she encounters Mau the first time, he really is a very fine specimen. Unfortunately the very lightly clad Mau wears trousers in the second half.
Melly Still and Mark Friend have done a great job of making the NT stage into a tsunami wrecked tropical island that’s believable, and Mark Ravenhill has adapted Terry Pratchett’s Nation in an imaginative way. After seeing several children’s novels adapted to the stage at the NT, I’ve stopped worrying about how it can possibly be done. It can. It’s as simple as that.
Mau is left alone on his (alternate) Pacific island after the tsunami strikes, and Daphne (or Ermintrude as she is called at first) is washed ashore off her English ship. They learn to understand each other as they go along, and as the island collects more survivors from elsewhere. Mau learns how to be a chief, despite his young age, and Daphne, played by Emily Taaffe, becomes adept at making beer and spitting in it, and in helping babies being born, which is unusual for a 19th century girl whose father is 139th in line to the throne. She gives up her stays and switches to a straw skirt.
It was clear from the shocked gasps from the audience when *** that many hadn’t read the book, whereas your witch was able to be quite calm about it.
The novel has been changed a little, but I surprised myself by being surprised at how touching the end is. While providing entertainment and fun, Nation also gives us something to think about.How we live, how to make choices, how to run a country whether you are an island chief or the King of England.
And the parrot is great. Did I already mention that?
(Photo © Johan Persson – Jason Thorpe as Milton the parrot, Emily Taaffe as Daphne and Gary Carr as Mau)