Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Theatre: The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker

by Dan Giovannoni
Barking Gecko Theatre
Director Luke Kerridge

Composer Claudio

Set and Costume Designer Jonathon Oxlade
Animation and Video Designer Tee Ken Ng
Sound Designer Tim Collins

Lighting Designer Lucy Birkinshaw
Puppetry Consultant Sarah Nelson

Movement Consultant Bernadette Lewis
Performed by Adriano Cappelletta, Grace Chow, Luke Hewitt and Laura Maitland

Performances at the Heath Ledger Theatre, Perth; Red Earth Arts Precinct, Kararatha; BREC, Bunbury; Albany Entertainment Centre
April 9 – May 19, 2022;
Tickets on the Barking Gecko Website https://www.barkinggecko.com.au

Grace Chow and Adriano Cappelletta (pic: Stewart Thorpe


The gap between entertainment for kids and for adults is long dissolved now, and Barking Gecko remains in the vanguard of theatre with stories and productions that work across the ages and interests of audiences.

Traditionally the starting point for bringing these diverse audiences together has, inevitably, been the stories, but Barking Gecko have a commitment to production values that add a high gloss to their telling.

In the case of Wilbur Whittaker, that begins with a beautifully designed set of abstracted columns and arches by Jonathon Oxlade (who also created some marvellous costumes). It frames the expanse of the Heath Ledger stage as well as anything I’ve seen there, and, with the assistance of slide out rostra and slide in or drop down screens, allows for a genuinely thrilling parade of effects and scene changes.

Oxlade’s work is given even more impact by the powerful, rapid-fire visuals by Tee Ken Ng that worked seamlessly between and during scenes and take us to other galaxies and beyond.

These design assets, integrated into director Luke Kerridge’s rapid-fire staging and delivered by some terrific stage management by Jack Wilson and Georgia Sealey, give Wilbur Whittaker a propulsive comic-book energy that’s exciting to watch.

It’s also excellently served by its cast; Wilbur Whittaker (Adriano Cappalletta), an eternal Clark Kent, is a boy who’s lost his Wonder and goes looking for it across the galaxy before his time runs out, while Princess Fantastic (the combustive Grace Chow) is his Supergirl. They provide the earnestness and determination the quest for Wonder requires.

The remarkable Luke Hewitt and Laura Maitland deliver the laughs, especially as the fabulous Pearls of Wisdom (Oxlade outdoes himself here) and Hewitt’s ubiquitous, cynical Francis Fox.

My hesitation about Wilbur Whittaker is the same as for the writer Dan Giovannoni and Kerridge’s previous collaborations for Barking Gecko, the Helpmann Award-winning Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories (2016) and House (2021).

After its inventive opening, the plotline tends to meander and lose focus - the litmus test here is the level of engagement by young audience members who continued to react to the spectacle, but not always the storyline.

Those qualms, though, dissolve in an exhilarating final scene as Wilbur, his sense of wonder restored, rides the Dangerbird through the clouds towards the audience

It’s an extraordinary effect, a testament to the skills of Wilbur Whittaker’s creative team and Barking Gecko.   


(Don't just take it from me – it’s worth reading the review by 11-year-old Jackson Davis in Seesaw Magazine here








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