The Summer Book

1/2
© Manuel Harlan

Sammy Foster & Sara Kestelman

2/2
© Manuel Harlan

Sammy Foster & Sara Kestelman

‘The Summer Book’, adapted from a charming 1972 novella by Moomins creator Tove Jansson, is set on an isolated rocky outcrop off the coast of Finland. Six-year-old Sophia's mother has succumbed to some unknown tragedy and her father is off working all the time, so she finds herself shipped away on an extended summer break, ambling ‘twixt rockpool and moss with only her hermit-like grandma for company.

It’s presented as a series of short vignettes, in keeping with the book’s 22 punchy chapters. We share Sophia’s wonder as she learns about life and death and the foolhardiness of certitude through grandma’s touching but never mawkish aphorisms. The ebb and flow of island life, expressed through fear of winter and the fragility of the wildlife, come to symbolise the vulnerability of these two very different characters contemplating life from opposite ends of the journey.

The on-stage chemistry is delightful: in high dudgeon, Sara Kestelman’s ‘grandma’ really rocks that Julie Andrews/Angela Lansbury cut-glass English sourpuss vibe to perfection. Director Douglas Rintoul has managed to get serious mileage pitting the confident pink-cheeked naivety of Sammy Foster’s Sophia against the canny, gimlet-eyed sagacity of ol’ grandma. Insolence, hubris and moral ambivalence are expressed in surprising ways and out of surprising lips. It’s bright, pacy, funny and just the right balance of nourishing for kids and thought-provoking for adults.

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