Sunday, 4 March 2012

REVIEW / THOUGHTS [Play] -- The Neverending Story

Theatre: Young People's Theatre [Google Map]
Showtimes: February 27 - March 17, 2012 
Approx. Runtime: 85 minutes (1 hours, 45 minutes) ** no intermissions
Ticket Prices: $15 [Youth; Senior]; $20 [Adult]; Pay-What-You-Can [Mar. 11 only]
Day Watched: Saturday March 3, 2012 at 2:00 PM
Type of Play: Fantasy, Adventure
Overall Impression: Not exactly like the movie or the novel, but it's enjoyable and fun. And if you've experienced either the movie or novel, nostalgic.

PERSONAL STANDING (Pre-exposures, thoughts, etc.)
The Neverending Story is a movie I've watched many times through my life. While I tend to remember the pale colour palette and the slight cheesy-ness, I've always enjoyed the idea/moral behind the story: keep your imaginations alive -- don't forget about your dreams -- don't lose that child in you. I also appreciated that despite it being a kid's movie (I think it's a movie for kids), much of the movie was... "adult". The Neverending Story movie wasn't afraid to show sadness, death, a bit of blood, and despair.

I don't remember how I found out about it being turned into a play, but when I did, I knew I had to see it. I was so curious how it would turn out.

The Neverending Story starts with an old man ironing a shirt. He suddenly stops, hearing a woman's humming in the distance. Then appears Bastian (main character), asking his dad if he stopped ironing because he was thinking of Mom (Bastian's mom -- aka the old man's deceased wife).  After a bit of reminiscing, and the dad telling Bastian to stick with realistic notions (not fantastical ones like Mom), Bastian leaves to go to school. On the way, Bastian gets picked on and steals The Neverending Story book from a bookstore. At school, Bastian goes to the attic and starts reading The Neverending Story.

While Atreyu (main character) is hunting purple buffalo with his trusted horse Artax, a messenger from the Childlike Empress appears and tells Atreyu that Fantastica (their world) is being threatened by this growing void called "The Nothing". The Childlike Empress has also fallen ill and has chosen Atreyu to be the hero in finding a cure for her. While Atreyu doesn't feel worthy to be considered a hero, he still takes on the task and rides off with Artax in search of a cure.

Similar to the movie, the play switches back and forth between Fantastica and the Real World. In terms of character development, I think the play did a nicer job. In the play, after a scene in Fantastica, the spotlight would then turn to Bastian. He would then comment on what he just read, at times expressing sympathy and how he relates to Atreyu and such, talking about his own situations. It can get a little corny when Bastian keeps making excuses to continue reading, but it's forgivable.

I had not realized this all these years, but The Neverending Story movie is based off a novel. I've never read the novel, but after looking it up on Wikipedia, I found out that some of the "differences" I noticed in the play (that were different from the movie) were actually present in the novel. Here are a few examples of "differences" that are not in the movie, but in the novel:

- Artax (Atreyu's horse) speaks
- Falkor gets trapped in a spider's web
- The Southern Oracle (Uyulala) has no body
- There are three gates to The Southern Oracle (Uyulala)

I think one "difference" that is different from the movie and novel is the idea that Fantastica is a story world, and that there are other worlds and other stories, and that "The Nothing" is making the different worlds collide together.

The acting overall is really good and convincing. You can't really fault the actors for saying their few cheesy lines (cheesy however it's delivered). Bastian is played by a girl and did a really good job portraying her character. Falkor was really cool, too, and Atreyu. Even though this play is mainly geared towards kids, there was such conviction in the actors that I still cried at the sad parts... lol... (well... maybe that's more because I am an empathetic person...)

My one beef is that the last part wasn't climactic enough -- they needed a few more lines, maybe a bit of silence; something to build it. As is, it feels a little flat.

I think the play had more characterization than the movie and I really appreciate that (though not all characters that appeared in the movie were in the play). I've already mentioned that Bastian showed more character when he expresses how he relates to Atreyu and how he feels about the story. Atreyu also had more characterization as he expresses doubt in whether or not he could succeed in his task -- whether he is worthy of being called a "hero". Artax, being able to speak, definitely had more characterization. I am currently unsure if this characterization is closer to the novel.

The music was good. There were a few slow tracks, and then some high-energy drum beat tracks.

The set worked well. The curtain pieces were the most magical part in the set. Their role was often to show a change in location, and it was done by moving the bottom parts along the floor. You couldn't see any hands moving them though, so the curtains looked alive -- it was really cool! "The Nothing" was also really neat. It was simply a black sheet behind the white curtains that emerged and moved about every now and then, giving the effect that it was growing and spreading.

The costumes were good for kids -- a little cheesy for me. Falkor was pretty much a guy in coloured clothing. But it's fine. I don't mind using my imagination for a play that encourages one to keep imaginations alive. The spider costume was really cool, though (those of you who have only watched the movie are probably thinking: There's a spider in the story? I was thinking the same thing).

Overall, The Neverending Story play is fun. It is definitely a nice, nostalgic trip. If you can, check it out. I personally think that the play is more... relatable... in some ways.  And it ties up one thing that the movie forgot to address: the passing of time in the Real World -- or rather, the consequence. The movie never addressed how the dad felt about Bastian being out so late without any kind of contact.

One thing for sure, watching the play made me want to watch the movie (and I did when I got home).

After the play, my sister, her fiance, and I went to a restaurant close to the theatre. Inside, we saw many of the cast members (Bastian, Falkor, Atreyu, Bastian's dad). How cool is that!! XD

My favourite quote from the play: "Everybody has wings!" -- Falkor

Thanks for reading!

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