No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Dave Brown

Review: The Moon’s a Balloon

TheMoonsABalloon

The propensity for children to believe in magic is marvelous. They watch theatre with a sense of wonderment, not trying to figure out the trickery or catch the misdirection, but content with a belief that what they’re watching is real. To create a sense of wonder and mysticism in The Moon’s a Balloon, though, Patch Theatre Company uses something better than magic: they use science.

In its most compelling scene, dancer Rob Griffin moves around a solitary balloon, with just enough helium that it lightly skims on the top of the ground. Griffin deftly moves his body around the balloon, and his manipulation of the air surrounding it causes the balloon to move and appear sentient, creating a enchanting duet.

With dancer Katrina Lazaroff, the pair play with balloons that have been weighted and would sit in the palm of your hand, and balloons that extend meters in diameter and softly repel against the ground before falling back to earth. They run with helium balloons, their strings pulled taught to appear solid. Strings are dislodged and balloons fly up into the rafters; weighted balloons fall back down to earth.

Firmly embedded in dance theatre, this textless physical work feels like significant new territory for the company, while still feeling very much of the repertoire. The work was collaboratively created by the dancers and the rest of the creative team, and Lazaroff has previously created dance work for children in Skip also being featured in this year’s Come Out Festival – and it’s exciting to see this audience for the form being engaged in Adelaide.

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Review: The Lion In The Night

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.

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Review: Me and My Shadow

The Space Theatre is filled with the din of excited children. The Saturday morning outside is showing Adelaide’s first strains of winter: dreary, making the world in great need of a blanket and a cup of tea. But inside, children yell, bang their seats, pose for a photograph on their mother’s iphone, try and dissect what they can see on the stage: look, I can see a shadow! They hold none of the trepidation of the blustery Saturday morning.

In front of me, a mother shows her children how you would make your hands into a shadow for a dog: the thumb an upright ear, the index finger hooked to make an eye, the middle and ring fingers the snout, the little finger moving up and down for the mouth: yap yap yap.

The house-lights dim and turn off. There are a few startled cries from the very young; a few excited yelps from the older kids who know what’s happening: it’s about to begin.

The Girl (Emma Beech) sits in a pool of light, concentrating absolutely on her scissors and butcher’s paper. Snip here, cut there, off goes the off-cuts into a paper bag. Open up the sheet and reveal the line of paper girls.

It’s bedtime, but she and her paper dolls are not quite ready for bed. How could you ever be ready for bed when there is a world of things to discover, create, and play with? Out comes the torch, shining a spot light around the space; then it is a car, and then a rocket ship.

The pool of light moves so it’s shining on the Girl, and she starts to make shadows with her hands. She makes a dog, and the children in front of me turn to their mother excitedly – they just learnt how to do that!

The Girl’s body is then encased in light, behind her a shadow: a new play thing. With paper bags and a shadow for a friend, what more could a girl need?

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