The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson; dir Mary MacDonald
Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa
25 January – 4 February 2012

 

Helen Keller was a remarkable woman whose activities and opinions are very relevant to today; a look at her Wikipedia entry will give you something of an idea. One of the least remarkable things about her was that she was deaf and blind and yet that is the period this play focuses on. It seems rather like writing a play featuring Stephen Hawking and only concentrating on his disability.

To be fair, the play is really about the eponymous Miracle Worker, Anne Sullivan, and her attempts to give the seven-year-old Helen a means of communication with the wider world (although she already had a system of signs that had been developed within the family). In itself that could make a good play; it has a number of problems however. It tries to tell the story too accurately and it does so with an overabundance of sentimentality. A difficult play to present in a meaningful and entertaining way then.

The result presented by the Loft doesn’t overcome the problems inherent in the script. It is a fairly dull affair with little to interest anyone other than those people with an emotional range limited to watching videos of puppies. The whole thing was very pedestrian with no spark to it. There were long periods where very little happens in dramatic terms, such as long, silent fights between Anne and the child. I’m sure that’s probably accurate, but it does nothing on the stage, and the tension and exhaustion undoubtedly present when these events really happened just did not come across.

Rachel Ratibb as Anne Sullivan makes a strong effort to draw the audience in, but is hampered by the script and, to be honest, a large part of the cast, who seemed bored and uninspired. The part of seven-year-old Helen was shared between teenagers Alisha and Indianna Long – I can’t identify who it was on the night. Again, she tries hard but it doesn’t really come off. At that age they need a lot of extra coaching and concentration from the director and it was not apparent that this had happened.

All in all I’m surprised the Loft even chose this play in the first place. They certainly failed to pull it off and it probably should have been left where it belongs, with schoolchildren in America.

 

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