Good With Maps review (Kings Cross Theatre)

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Writer Noëlle Janaczewska is an explorer at heart. But what’s an explorer to do in 2016, now the world has been discovered, all the maps have been made, and the lines have been drawn?

Janaczewska’s new one-woman play, performed by Jane Phegan, goes deep into her fascination with maps, the wide world, and the history of the Amazon. This sense of curiosity was something always encouraged by her father, but when he’s diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and sets out on his own journey into the unknown, Janaczewska struggles to find her own compass.

She’s called back around the world from Sydney to the UK to be by his side and help him on this terrifying new path. Along the way, she delves back into the literature she and her father shared while she was young.

Janaczewska has a witty and lightly humorous way of looking at the situations she finds herself in, but the best thing about this play is how well it melds the exploration of internal and external worlds.

The writing is often quite dense with description as she plumbs into the Amazon, the rubber trade and even Fordlandia, but Kate Gaul’s direction and Jane Phegan’s performance give the text great clarity.

It’s no easy feat to perform a monologue on a thrust stage, like the one in Kings Cross Theatre, which requires Phegan to speak directly to audience members on either side of the space. But this piece is generously staged so that it never feels like Phegan is involved in some tennis match, moving from one side to another.

You can sense a great affinity with the real life Janaczewska in Phegan’s performance as the writer — it’s thoughtful, calm and full of wonder, and becomes very moving.

Nate Edmondson’s sound design and compositions immerse you in the various worlds of the play, while Louise Mason’s lighting traces each dramatic turn perfectly.

In fact, every element in this production is in step and working together to create this fascinating and ultimately heartbreaking piece of theatre.

Featured image: Jane Phegan in Good With Maps, photo by Lucy Parakhina

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