Review: The Lion In The Night

by Jane

Where Me and My Shadow built magic out of light and shadow, The Lion In The Night builds these moments out of innocuous objects that clutter our every day. Wendy Todd’s set is a delight of organised clutter: bric a brac, upended furniture, a washing line and a bath-tub take their place in a combination of objects which at once seem opposed from occupying the same space, while also seeing like a natural combination. These objects come together in ways which of course make sense to the imagination, but with the help of a little stage magic, the imagination comes to life.

Blowing on a lamp and the globe glows brighter, pop on the kettle and you’ll soon be able to hear the whistle, ready for tea. Pedalling away with all her might on an exercise bike, Angelie (Eliza Lovell) races through the night. Theo (Rory Walker) clacks away at an old typewriter, composing a letter which, with the power of dial-up, flies up into the rafters. Into the red and blue umbrella goes the electric beaters, winding up the umbrella until there it is as a satellite dish.

Patch’s production, jointly created by the creative team with director Dave Brown, takes just the essence from Pamela Allen’s picture book by the same name. Rather than a retelling for the stage, strands and images from Allen’s book are drawn out and played upon. Some lines and scenes are taken directly from the book – and Allen’s soft poetry sits beautifully on the stage – but others are new adventures just for these characters. The resulting play is a whopping sixteen scenes in under an hour, but this short, episodic structure works well, as we join Angelie and Theo on short bursts of their imagination. With so many strands it’s easy to imagine the work would get lost or rushed, but instead the work flows along, never disjunctured.

If Theo and Angelie are children or adults is never quite explained, and it doesn’t need to be. As a pair they exist in a nether space between the two, or perhaps a space that encompasses the two; Lovell and Walker approaching the work with the youthful air of excitement and imagination. The show and the performances don’t physically extend out into the audience, the performers’ energy, heart, and playfulness draw the young audience in.

Belinda Gehlert’s composition is the flow the play is built on. Moments of the visual enchanting of the every day and stage magic pair well with Gehlert’s music: piano and violin are joined by an accompaniment of a knife hitting against a chopping board, a tea spoon clacking against cubes of sugar in a cup, the cacophony of every thing which makes noise on at full blast. These sounds are joined, too, as children’s theatre often is, by the noise of a young audience: a gasp here, an “ew gross” there, a giggle from the adults reacting to the children reacting to the show.

The Lion In The Night is a small and delightful play.

Patch presents A Lion in the Night, inspired by Pamela Allen’s picture book. Collaboratively created by Dave Brown (director), David Gadsden (lighting designer), Belinda Gehlert (composer and musician), Wendy Todd (designer), Eliza Lovell (performer), Rory Walker (performer), and Bob Weatherly. At the Odeon Theatre until August 18. Then the Barossa, Golden Grove, Brighton, Pt Pirie, Whyalla, Renmark and Mt Gambier. More information and tickets.

Disclaimer: Rory Walker appears in Sepia, the play I am currently producing for presentation at Melbourne Fringe.