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The Lighthouse review at the Space, London – ‘gem of a fairy tale two-hander’

Rafe Beckley in The Lighthouse at the Space, London. Photo: Ben Carpenter Rafe Beckley in The Lighthouse at the Space, London. Photo: Ben Carpenter

Ordinary logic is best left at the door of this atmospheric converted Docklands church for full enjoyment of new playwright Rachael Claye’s magical fairy tale.

Grumpy Nikolas, having dropped his lamp, crash-lands his sleigh on an iceberg next to a lighthouse. Here he finds 14-year-old Rose, whose father, the keeper, has not returned from a dangerous rescue mission. Rose, played with unsentimental candour by Annabel Smith, is resourceful, chatty, optimistic and determined.

Self-doubting Nikolas (a warm Rafe Beckley) – a million miles from red-suited, white-whiskered Santa – is both 1,700 years old and middle-aged, sporting an unkempt brown beard and a threadbare coat. When it seems he may fail in expected duties, he even utters the near-Scrooge-worthy line: “Christmas without baubles and frippery – the world can manage.”

If resolution depends on an empty magic sack opportunely yielding life-saving items, there is truth in the relationship between two isolated people in extreme circumstances.

The metaphor of light lost and found, and big themes – loss, loneliness, devotion to duty, finding a place in the world – are addressed with a delicate touch under Danielle McIlven’s deft direction. And the lighthouse – a complicated affair of ropes, chains, nets, planks and a wrought iron staircase – is a character in itself.

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Unexpected gem of a fairy tale two-hander, acted with conviction on an imaginatively constructed lighthouse set