Actor Des Fleming
Director Alice Bishop
Composer Wally Gunn
Subiaco Arts Centre
March 12 - 19, 2011
Catalpa is an engrossing re-telling of the rescue in 1876 of six Fenian political prisoners from Fremantle by the American whaler, Catalpa. The fine theatre craft of playwright Donal O’Kelly, the show’s solo actor, Des Fleming, and director Alice Bishop breathe life, surprise and not a little wonder into the story.
Fleming is a masterful performer, admirable for his endurance alone – two hours of demanding physical and vocal effort is an achievement in itself. Bishop also deserves praise for her sure-footed and inventive direction, in particular her imaginative transformation of mundane objects into an array of sails, lamps, boats, clothes and carriages.
In O’Kelly’s original version, Catalpa was a stand-and-deliver piece for an actor at a microphone. Bishop and Fleming, aided greatly by Wally Gunn’s cinematic score, nicely performed by James Rushford, have made it, I suspect, a much more complete experience.
Catalpa would be a rewarding night out at the theatre at any time; in the week of St Patrick’s Day, it’s damn near irresistible.
Link here to the full review in The West Australian