In the right hands, theatre is an immensely powerful tool for taking large issues and bringing them down to a manageable level. What can, on one level, simply be entertainment can, on another level, be therapy. It’s for this reason that plays such as Sam Rose in the Shadows that deal with larger social issues - in this case depression - are especially moving.
Sam lives in a city of shadows, desperately walking its streets, day after day, in an attempt to open his box of sad things, a literal weight around his neck which he carries around with him constantly after a terrible loss, the details of which are only hinted at. But whatever he tries, fails, seemingly damning him to wander eternally with the box growing ever heavier with every step. That is, until aid appears in the guise of Sam’s left-at-home son, Ivan, the brave, six-year-old conquerer of Airing Cupboard Cave and Stairs Mountain, who decides to see exactly what it is that his distant dad does every day and sets out on a quest to find him and help him.
Visually, the production was stunning, with both the cadaverously thin Sam and the energetic Ivan played by superbly expressive rod puppets. Throw in cityscapes that expand out of suitcases and demons that literally fold out of the dark corners and you have an incredibly engaging medium for the play’s beautifully simple and profound message that the best way to deal with depression can be to just focus on the important people around you and let them share your burden.
In fact, Tucked In Productions did at times glory a little too much in their own skill at puppetry. For example, the sequence of Ivan exploring the city was entrancing to begin with but was, perhaps, a little over-long, reducing the pace of the narrative.
However, an overabundance of skill and a slight misappropriation of focus is a relatively minor criticism and Tucked In Productions’ polish and grace makes them easy to forgive. It ensures that Sam Rose in the Shadows, while not a happy play, is uplifting and beautiful and well, well worth a watch.