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

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