Dragons, giant turtles and a massive spider — what’s not to like. All that and much more is in the production The Neverending Story, coming to the National Arts Centre at the end of January.
Jillian Keiley has read a lot of scripts and seen a lot of plays in her career. The head of the NAC’s English Theatre department gets a tingle and sheds a tear or two when a show is perfect for the NAC. When she first read the Canadian adaptation of the script for The Neverending Story, all her spidey senses were engaged when she was asked to direct the play at the Stratford Festival. As soon as she read it, she wanted it on an NAC stage.
“The Neverending Story is a perfect fit for the NAC,” said Keiley. “It’s Canadian. It’s a story for families and there is a deep meaning beyond all the fancy production values.”
“The Neverending Story is about bringing light to darkness. And in our confused and uncertain times, we all need a little bit of light.”
– Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director, NAC English Theatre
The story teaches that “you can make a huge impact like Greta Thunberg or you can make a small impact in your community, or even in your family. That all means it’s not all bad as long as there are these little pricks of light in the darkness,” she added.
This production has reunited her with the uber-talented Canadian designer Bretta Gereke, who has worked extensively in Canada with Stratford and now in the United Kingdom with organizations such as the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. She’s worked with Keiley on such productions as Alice Through the Looking Glass. The two reached an understanding about what they felt was the essence of the novel published in 1979.
It’s about how a young boy, bullied and alone after his mother dies, who finds his courage and confronts a darkness that is threatening the world. He’s helped by magical, fantastical creatures — a giant turtle, 16 feet across and eight feet high, an even more enormous spider. And then there’s a dragon named Falkor. Each puppet, designed by Gereke, is manipulated by a team of actors. And guess what: they light up the stage too.