Monday, October 7, 2013

Theatre: Boats

By Finegan Kruckemeyer
Terrapin Puppet Theatre, for the Awesome Festival
Director: Frank Newman
: Matthew Fargher
Set and Puppet Design
: Greg Methé
Costume Design
: Roz Wren
Performed by Quinn Griggs and Brett Rogers
Perth Cultural Centre
Until October 9

Quinn Griggs and Brett Rogers
It’s exciting to be back at Awesome, the arts festival for children (or, as its disarming director, Jenny Simpson, aptly brands them, “bright young things”) that runs through the October school holidays and into the spring term in and around the Perth Cultural Centre.
For me, it began with a real highlight: Boats, a rollicking sailors’ yarn by Tasmania’s Terrapin Puppet Theatre. The show was inadvertently involved in controversy at last year’s Helpmann Awards when our own Barking Gecko’s The Red Tree was mistakenly announced as the winner of the children’s theatre gong at the ceremony instead of it, but there’s no doubt that Boats was a more than worthy winner.
The awesomely prolific children’s playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer’s story is a complete adventure for kids, with shipwrecks and circuses, loves lost and found, mateship, and, above all, the irresistible siren song of the sea.
The telling of the tale, directed by Frank Newman, is just as impressive. The performers, Quinn Griggs and Brett Rogers, create sound effects like cinema’s Foley artists (the twisting of a leather belt become the creaking of a ship in a gale; air escaping from a balloon becomes the cry of sea birds). Its visual effects take shape from things seemingly lying about the stage: a knotted length of rope becomes the gull of good omen that flies over the sailor Jof (Griggs); two china cups become the kindly old fisherman, Okinawa Yukio (“age was a wave washing him overboard”), who leaves his boat to the young seafarer. It’s all wondrously inventive, with the deep humour of sudden imaginative discovery that is the greatest gift of theatre for children.
Rogers is an adept narrator of the play’s aquatic occurrences, as well as playing Jof’s offsider, Nic, his sweetheart, Eliza Turk, and other characters, and Griggs is an absolute marvel. His long, twinkling face (you’ve got to be reminded of the Welsh comic Rob Bryden), expressive voice and tough-as-teak body make him any kid’s first mate.
The bright young things with me were rising four (I cheated – the program advises five and up) and 10. The youngster laughed out loud, opened her eyes wide and got fidgety only towards the end of the show’s 50 minutes; her big brother took it all in shrewdly, leaning over to get me to write “very clever” in my notes.
So it was, and much more besides.   

An edited version of this review appeared in The West Australian 7.10.13

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