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Jake Runeckles as Bastian. Photo: Emily Cooper.

Theatre Review: The Neverending Story at the NAC—until 02.16.20

By Laura Gauthier and Samara Caplan on February 2, 2020



Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever). Follow @bffs613 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Magic is glittering within the walls of the National Arts Centre, where The Neverending Story is currently on stage until February 16th. Based on the book by Michael Ende, fans of the original story or the 1984 film adaption will not be disappointed. A production for everyone from eight to 108, The Neverending Story will keep you on the edge of your seat and in complete awe.

There may be no better escape than being completely enthralled in a bookbeing taken to another world full of magic, mystery and characters who feel like friends. For Bastian (Jake Runeckles), books take him away from the struggles of his everyday life. When he flees from school bullies he ends up in a book shop where The Neverending Story comes into his possession. As he devours the pages he feels connected to Atreyu, a young hunter who has been selected to be the hero as “The Nothing” threatens to erase all the stories from the land of Fantastica.

Roy Lewis (left) as Bookseller and Jake Runeckles as Bastian in The Neverending Story. Photo: Emily Cooper.

A quest begins and the hero is met with poisonous spiders, luck dragons, all-knowing turtles and a villainous wolf. In an effort to defeat “The Nothing” and save Fantastica, Atreyu must find a new name for the Childlike Empress. As Bastian gets pulled further and further into the story he starts to question whether it is just words on a page or something moreand is he really just a reader sitting in the attic of his school, or is Fantastica closer to him then it may seem?

In a world where he doesn’t know what’s coming next (a feeling we all know too well) Bastian learns what his value is and how to be brave. He is inspired by Atreyu and knows that; “What I’ve started I must finish. I’ve gone too far to turn back. Regardless of what may happen, I have to go forward.”

Magic comes to life in the staging, lighting, music, brilliant costuming and puppetry within the production. The audience suspends all disbelief and is completely transported into the world of Fantastica.

The show has heavy Canadian roots. It was originally produced at the Stratford Festival, meaning that the sets, props, costumes and wigs originate from Stratford Festival artisans and shops. Also, with composer Hawksley Workman and director Jillian Keiley on board, it is a Canadian theatre nerd’s dream.

Andrew Robinson As Artax the Horse and Andrew Iles as Atreyu. Photo: Emily Cooper.

Every piece of this show works in perfect harmony together, the glow of a turtle shell, the echo of a footstep in a puddle, the seamless movements of a magical horse and the overarching powerful score that carries the audience through the world of Fantastica.

Whether it’s the fantastical story or inspiring visuals on stage, The Neverending Story reignites imagination and highlights its power to create something from nothing. As the Childlike Empress says “In the beginning, it is always dark.” Experience The Neverending Story on stage and see what your mind can create out of the darkness.

The Neverending Story plays at the National Arts Centre until February 16, 2020. Tickets range from $15–87 online and at the box office. The performance runs approximately 2 hours including intermission.