Wednesday, 9 November 2011

5 minutes with Maggie Kenneady - 'Good Morning Maggie'

Maggie is our much loved 'Good Morning Maggie'. Maggie brings her passion for children’s stories, drama and art to little listeners at Karrinyup Shopping Centre every Wednesday.

Why is storytelling important?

Storytelling has been a way to teach and entertain through funny, sad, strange and adventurous tales way before the written word existed. It enables a  passing on of knowledge of the human condition and of dealing with things, to the next generation.  I relish telling the traditional stories like "The Boy who cried Wolf" and "the Three Little Pigs". Entertaining picture story books with situations and dilemmas children face in our society by our Australian writers and illustrators are tops and serve the same purpose.
What's your favourite story to read aloud?
My favourite stories to read aloud to pre-school children are by Pamela Allen. She is the Russell Crowe of children's literature -  a Kiwi born Aussie!   One of her books, The Bear's Lunch is full of drama. A picnic is interrupted with the scary roaring of a predatory bear. The children bravely face danger and find they can bluff the bear to save themselves. If a child remembered this story if they were ever bullied it could be helpful. 

I love to read Feathers for Phoebe by Rod Clement because it calls for me to produce distinctive voices for Zelda, who thinks she is chic and posh, for the timid Phoebe, and for the amorous male bird who Phoebe falls (literally) for.  It's a book about self acceptance.

Another favourite is Kip by Christine Booth. I encourage the children to crow with rooster Kip as I read and it's lots of fun. The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky gives me the pleasure of using a variety of animal voices. The children anticipate and join in saying "the terrible plop!" with me.  It's a book about conquering the fear of fear.

I don't dwell on the moral of the story or the lessons to be leaned from the stories.  Through fun and involvement a child can feel empathy and soak up the message in the process.

Your life before Good Morning Maggie
Before "Good Morning Maggie", some of my occupations have been Bank Officer, clerk at Sotheby's in London, typist/receptionist  at a US Army Base  hospital in Munich, Outback 4x4 Adventure Tour operator and cook, language teacher for the Adult Multicultural Education Service.  

Something I never envisaged was conducting the workshop with young children for Barking Gecko!  Major parts of my life could be seen as preparation for just that.   GMM has three segments - a drama exercise, reading a story, and an art activity (all worked around the theme of the week's story) and it enables me to use many of the disciplines I've practiced over the years.  I've been actively involved in theatre since I was a teenager (eons ago!).  I majored in Drama at Deakin Uni, was a primary school teacher for 14 years, did a graduate diploma in Art Education and became an Art teacher.  Being a mum and a grandma helps heaps too.

As country-town kind of people my husband and I choose to live among the trees in Roleystone. My interests are; my garden of mainly WA natives and some drought hardy exotics and also my organic vegetable garden; taking long walks each day with our labradoodle, Edsel; painting and drawing most days.  I'm a vegetarian who is passionate about animal welfare (stop all exports of live animals!), upholding the international rights of refugees, and the preservation of the natural environment, especially in WA.

How is storytelling important to the arts?
Storytelling opens a path to the arts.  It starts from safe exposure to experiences, ideas and characters, and leads to the opportunity to understand, accept and explore feelings and to have a go at all forms of self-expression.  Stories are full of drama.  They expand the mind.  Sharing stories with children creates a link between language and drama.  In role-play we internalise understanding. Children gain the ability to model language from good literature.  

Favourite moments from Good Morning Maggie sessions this year
My favourite moments during "Good Morning Maggie" are simply observing the looks on the children's faces on the occasions when they are deeply involved in role-play, totally absorbed in a story or eagerly working on their art activity.  Then I know it's all so worthwhile.  

Join  Good Morning Maggie at Karrinyup Shopping Centre on Wednesday mornings during school term.Suitable for Under 5's and their grown ups!

Monday, 10 October 2011

5 Minutes with Sam Longley

Sam Longley has been an important part of Barking Gecko Theatre Company for over 15 years.  Sam stars at Richie the Power Beagle in Craig Silvey’s The Amber Amulet.

Have you had any jobs apart from being an actor?
When I was starting out, between paid gigs I was a bartender.  I bartended around the world including New York, Greek Islands, London and Perth for about 10 years.  I think being an actor helps as it’s social, fun and entertaining.  It isn’t hard to pour a drink but it is hard to interact with clients.  It’s called the hospitality industry because you are supposed to be hospitable.

Any favourite Barking Gecko Memories?
There are so many great memories and shows.  My first show was Frog Opera in 1996.  This was my first professional gig as well as my first show for Barking Gecko.  It was a great show not only because it was set in a swimming pool and we got to do underwater tricks and flips, but also because we got to tour the show to Canada, the US and Singapore.

Currently, working with Craig Silvey is at the top of my list because I think he is a fantastic writer so it’s an honour to be working with something he has written.

What’s it like playing a dog in Craig Silvey’s The Amber Amulet?
I really like playing a dog because dogs to me are pure – they play every emotion 100%.  There is no subtext with dogs.  Not like cats that are all subtext.

Do you have a dog at home?
No I am allergic to dogs and cats, sheep and horses. If a dog licks me I can come up in large welts!

Is the poo real in the show?
The poo is not real.  We’ve gone through a number of prototypes for the show starting from a food-based version using flour, oats, peanuts and cocoa. It smelt like a chocolate cake and looked like poo.  The problem was that it crumbled in the end.  We now have a poo made of wood putty which is working perfectly.

Have you enjoyed working with Artistic Director John Sheedy?
John’s a cracker.  What I like about working with John is that he came in with a very strong idea of what he wanted but he was not close-minded.  He listened to everything you had to say and gave it the weight it deserved.  I think this is the way it needs to be with all art forms.  It needs to be collaborative. You are really a part of the whole show that way.

Sam Longley as Richie The Powerbeagle


Friday, 7 October 2011

The Amber Amulet - Guest Reviewed by Mairead

The Amber Amulet was very good and quite funny. It had a good storyline. The book was written by a bestselling author called Craig Silvey. It is about a 12 year old superhero called The Masked Avenger. He does good things for people. One day he finds out that someone called Joan is sad so he goes and finds the amber amulet for her. The characters were The Masked Avenger, Joan, Richie the power beagle and The Masked Avenger’s mum. It was good acting. The walls were cool: they had mailboxes all over them! The costumes were simple but good. Over all, it was a great play!

- Mairead, aged 9.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Amber Amulet - Guest Reviewed by Roy

The Amber Amulet is the latest offering at Barking Gecko.

The Amber Amulet is the debut stage production from the pen of Western Australian Craig Silvey. Craig is primarily known as a novelist through works including Rhubarb and Jasper Jones. The Amber Amulet is based on a short story by Craig and the play demonstrates his gifted use of language and imagination. Artistic Director, John Sheedy, lives up to his growing reputation as he crafts this three hander into a piece of theatre that makes a comment and thoroughly entertains.

A strong stage cast compliments the production with Will O'Mahony, Sam Longley and Genevieve Hegney all able to demonstrate commitment to their art. The technical production was excellent and the Barking Gecko theatre environment comparable to the best staging facilities in Australia.

The play is accessible to all ages. Short plays often fail to meet their full potential because time lines limit the development of story and characters. However, this Barking Gecko production is the complete package, and a wonderful opportunity for all the family to spend time out together at live theatre.

Roy (Grandparent)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Guest Reviewer - Will Miller (7)

I went and saw a play called The Red Tree. It was about the book written by Shaun Tan. The play was about a girl who woke up one morning and had a really bad day and thought lots of really bad thoughts. She got stuck in a cage, then she found a big fish, and then she played a weird game.  She got very sad. But then she started to find red leaves and in her bedroom a red tree. Then she was very happy.

I liked the book because it was like a puzzle in each page because you have to find the red leaf – like on the stage, in each picture there was a red leaf from the red tree. I liked it how the play was done on different parts of a round stage, like different pages of the book.

It was frightening when the lighting struck and I freaked out when the girl was opening the noisy box! But there were funny bits too, like the clowns and when there were funny sounds when she was playing with the dice. The dice was big like in the book. There was no talking in the play except for singing. I thought it was interesting how the fish was made.

So the girl found her way home and she pulled a red leaf out of the wall and then all these sparkling red lights appeared and you could actually see the red tree -  crystal clear. And I wasn’t surprised that the girl couldn’t see the tree at first because she was imagining bad things and she couldn’t really see it.

I thought the girl’s acting was really good, like she really was crying - like she was lost or something. But then she found her hope somewhere, they were the leaves.

But I liked the play better than the book because it was funnier. The play was funny in some bits and the book wasn’t funny. I think the funny bits were put in so that we didn’t feel sad. At the end of the play I felt happy because she got all her hopes and the red tree appeared. I liked the bit when the red tree appeared because it made my heart sing.

Will Miller (7)

Will and Ella on Opening Night

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Guest Reviewer - Ciara Duffy (17)

Be Transported Into a Strange New World with Barking Gecko's magical adaptation of Shaun Tan's  The Red Tree

Barking Gecko Theatre Company is bringing Shaun Tan’s illustrations and story to life through a magical adaptation of his award winning illustrated book, The Red Tree, at the Subiaco Arts Centre in Perth. The story has been adapted and directed by John Sheedy, Artistic Director of the company, assisted by production manager Genevieve Jones. Designed by Gypsy Taylor, this presentational performance explores very real and pertinent issues such as depression, sadness, confusion and finally a great sense of hope, resilience, renewal and a bright awakening.
Barking Gecko have very successfully fulfilled their mission and vision by presenting, through this play, an extraordinary theatre experience set to ignite the imagination of young people and their families. This stunning adaptation is definitely suitable for people of all ages, and presents some of the most incredible theatrical experiences possible.
In his book, Western Australian author Shaun Tan explores the journey of a young girl whose day goes from bad to worse. She attempts to navigate her way through a strange and unfamiliar world, yet as all of her troubles overcome her at once, she realises that there is always renewal and a window of hope in life. The action of the play is set in each of the pages of the book as the illustrations are delicately recreated on stage.
The central character is ‘The Girl’, performed by physical actress Ella Hetherington. We are placed in her shoes as she journeys through her dark and confusing day. Hetherington constructs a very convincing characterisation, very nearly bringing the audience to tears and definitely to laughter. She has no speech throughout the performance, except moments when she is singing, yet we are still able to understand her journey and emotions through her intriguing facial expressions, movement and musical outbursts. The band, consisting of composers and musicians Clint Bracknell, David Salvaire and Dylan Hooper, bring ‘The Deaf Machine’ to life as they march and dance around the girl, singing “the world is a deaf machine” and throughout the play perform their original songs inspired by the words in the book.
One of the greatest aspects of the performance is how theatrical techniques such as lighting, props, live music and sound effects bring about the evolving scenes - the realms the girl has to overcome. The presentational stage, designed by Gypsy Taylor, works perfectly to distinguish between scenes through numerous cogs, spot lights and a movable set design. The gigantic inflatable cod fish is incorporated into the set to literally tower over the girl just like in the book, and sent the audience into rounds of applause as it magically came to life.
Together, lighting designer Matthew Marshall and sound designer Kingsley Reeve bring an incredible theatre experience to the design. One such moment is when Hetherington is clasping to the top of the mast of her boat while a series of strobe lighting and thunderous sound effects throw us all into her thunderstorm of a day.
The audience was left in awe by the video game atmosphere created when the girl finds that ‘terrible fates are inevitable’ as she circles the main cog and is pounded with uncertainty. As the bright, magical red tree behind the scrim curtain flickers to darkness at the end, we are reminded that nothing in life is absolute, but there is always a spark of hope. A thrilling experience with something in it for everyone, do not miss this amazing performance!
Ciara Duffy
Ciara with actress Ella Hetherington on Opening Night

Guest Reviewer - Susan Ryan (Parent reviewer)

Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree by The Barking Gecko Theatre Company                         

“Who are you?” growls the drummer (David Salvaire) to the little girl in Barking Gecko’s wondrous production of Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree. It is the recurring motif of the red leaf which helps both the girl and the audience to answer the existential question of our purpose and who we are. Although The Red Tree tackles the issue of depression, it is a life affirming and uplifting production which had the opening night’s audience clapping and cheering at various stages of the girl’s odyssey.

Ella Hetherington embodies the character of the girl perfectly; her often silent portrayal of confusion and fear is accompanied by agile and sinuous movement as she travels through the different alien worlds created on stage. Emerging reluctantly from her bed, the wide eyed girl enters a world designed evocatively by Gypsy Taylor and her team. Taylor’s amazingly clever and original presentation of the girl’s mind space reinforces her view that, “the world is a wilted balloon.” The looming groper, representing the weight of her mood, mesmerised audience members, young and old.

Just as in Tan’s brilliant book, the girl does not speak. John Sheedy (producer) imaginatively solves this dilemma by allowing a music band of three to communicate for her, which they do with great eloquence and skill. They play an integral part in conveying the girl’s responses and reactions to her challenging journey and carry the narrative of Tan’s picture book with remarkable effectiveness. Matthew Marshall’s inventive lighting, and imaginative and at times humorous sound effects by Kingsley Reeve help to include the audience in the girl’s search for hope and safety.

My ten year old daughter instantly recognised the various stages of the girl’s day from the pages of the book.  The seemingly impossible task of transferring the mood of the original pages to stage has been achieved magnificently by Sheedy and his team. How was the page about the snail and interminable time going to be portrayed? How do you demonstrate a world of depersonalised workers in a ‘deaf machine’? Half the enjoyment and magic of the play came from discovering just how wonderfully and ingeniously Barking Gecko was able to pull off this feat.  

Just when it seems that the weight of her problems is going to overwhelm the girl after a wild and manipulative puppet dance, a red leaf is found. As the girl retraces her steps to discover that a red leaf was hiding in each difficult situation, her relief is palpable. The band’s accompanying music slowly lifts in tempo and vitality as the metaphorical leaf indicates that there has always been hope, a way out of the gloom and despair. A joyous crescendo is reached as the girl and audience are presented with the radiant image of the red tree right where she started her journey. Circles of light pan across the audience including us in the girl’s release from grief and resulting leaps of unbridled delight.

This is one of the best plays for all ages that I have seen produced by a Perth company. The Red Tree does deal with issues of despair and hopelessness but it is overwhelmingly a play of rejoicing. It will inspire discussion on all levels with both children and adults as we read into the girl’s adventures our own understandings of despondency and our solutions to these matters. My daughter and I had a lengthy discussion in the car on the way home about what to do if you’re having a bad day and where to go for help. We had fun interpreting the plethora of intriguing images and ideas which the play pointed to, and returned home bursting with energy. This is a production which has excelled at its purpose to both educate and entertain, it is a must see for all!
Susan Ryan

Guest Reviewer - Olivia Nardini (Age 11)

A Review of Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree presented by Barking Gecko Theatre Company

The Red Tree opened Saturday 9 July 2011 at Subiaco Arts Centre.  Shaun Tan’s book, as many would know, has beautiful illustrations and words.  The play brings the book to life on stage with music, sound effects and lighting.

Although there is only one set, they use the space well and angle the set to suit everyone in the audience.  The set is as quirky as the book and Shaun Tan’s brilliant imagination!  A GIANT cog fills the stage with a small bed centre stage, and giant weather vanes of rooster, cat and tea kettle.  The set is smoky with pale lighting, mainly green and gold.

Ella Hetherington plays “the girl” and she plays her character amazingly!!  We follow her journey, sharing her discoveries, some funny, some SCARY, some sad.  Ella’s voice is beautiful and works well with the music.

All the musicians are great.  They’re quick, fast and energetic (I don’t know how they keep up) and make the audience want to join in with their catchy sounds and drums. 

When the red tree is revealed it’s a magical moment and by far the most beautiful part of the play.

Everything in the book is in the play and it is interesting.  Even the giant fish is there.  That’s my favourite part, when the GIANT green fish escapes from the sea chest and fills the stage!  (So BIG it touches people in the audience).  Nobody expects a GIANT is the best production I have seen.

Overall everything was brilliant and I’m sure Shaun Tan would be proud.

Suitable for children, but loud noises may scare younger children.

Olivia Nardini

Roll out the red carpet - Opening Night of The Red Tree

Barking Gecko premiered its adaptation of Shaun Tan's The Red Tree on Saturday to a full capacity crowd. Audience members both young and young at heart filled the Subiaco Arts Centre with a buzz of anticipation and excitement.
Described as "courageous direction", "elegant and captivating" - the reviews were pouring in even before the champagne was served. Check our Facebook page for links to the reviews and more photos.

Cast (Clint Bracknell, Dylan Hooper, Ella Hetherington, David Salvaire), Artistic Director John Sheedy and Production Designer Gypsy Taylor
Assistant Designer Alicia Clements, Production Designer Gypsy Taylor, Lighting Designer Matthew Marshall, Artistic Director John Sheedy, actress Ella Hetherington and Production Manager Genevieve Jones

Barking Gecko ladies - Robbyn Bracknell, Asher Brown, Kate Hancock, Katherine Mclean and Michelle Weall

Ella Hetherington with Bing and Christine Tan      

Monday, 20 June 2011

Rehearsal Week 2 and a brand new video

We've just wrapped up the second week of rehearsals for The Red Tree. Things are looking great and to top it off we have launched our first promotional video for the 2011 season. Thanks to Lush TV for creating a brilliant piece that reflects all the elements of the production.

Watch the behind the scenes video of The Red Tree

The first week saw the band, The Deaf Machine, reform to re-work and tighten up their five song score. From all reports it sounded like a great way to kick off rehearsals. Members of WAMi Award winning Perth outfit Boom! Bap! Pow! have come together to form the steam-punked trio. 

During this time our friends at Plumb Construction were creating the set. Production Manager, Genevieve Jones, constantly updated staff and cast on its progress at the workshop with intriguing photos. We were all amazed in the second rehearsal week to see it arrive piece by piece - only to be put together by the band boys. 
Cog assembly - team bonding
These cogs will form The Red Tree world. Each piece will be a new realm for the little girl, played by Ella Hetherington, to experience and navigate. Acrobatically inclined, Ella is no lightweight on the stage!
Ella, our star.
Thanks to Genevieve, Week 2 of rehearsals proved to be louder and faster than the first. The buyer extraordinaire purchased more and more junkyard instruments to create The Deaf Machine's unique mechanical sound. Some look addictively enticing while others just look dangerously weird. 

The band called this The Circularsaurus
This week we welcome Production Designer Gypsy Taylor, Sound Designer Kingsley Reeve and Lighting Designer Matthew Marshall to The Red Tree world. Stay tuned for plenty more photos!