Review | Laura Money
Sincerely the most charming children’s tale you will see this FRINGEWORLD 2018, Josephine! is the ultimate homage to children’s literature. It has everything – an isolated protagonist, a deep and honest friendship, pirates, circus performers, ghosts, long-lost heroine pilots, and especially adventure. Echoing Bilbo Baggins and Winnie the Pooh – the titular Josephine learns that the best adventures start with the first step.
Scott McArdle is the ultimate storyteller, it’s clear that he is enamoured with children’s stories, so much so that Josephine! is as familiar as slipping under the covers of your own bed, or sitting in the indented cushion of your favourite armchair. It’s a fresh, fast-paced, frenzy of adventure that borrows from the greats. Josephine’s (Rhianna Hall) origin story is whimsical and charming, McArdle’s characters that comprise the quirky apartment block where Josephine lives are brought hilariously to life by Perth acting royalty – Jo Morris and Nick Maclaine – they all have their distinct features. Hall is perfect as the fading Josephine. The emotion conveyed on her face as she is first lost in a crowd and then found by her Aunt Clementine is so pure, it cannot fail to elicit tears – or at least a lump in the throat.
Tristan McInnes is a true surprise here – he absolutely conveys the desperation of William, the lonely boy who befriends Josephine when she turns up in his air-vent one night. Their friendship is strong and supportive, they both help each other work through their anxieties and fears. Josephine by talking to William, and William by forcing Josephine to take that first step. Like Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy before her, Josephine embarks on her journey with trepidation and reserve – but this heroine has a 21st century upgrade – she is a precocious reader, like Matilda, and takes charge of her journey through her invention. Armed with a toaster-powered bathtub, Josephine meets many people who all help her find her niche in life.
Hall channels every Alice performer with her sweet inquiry and problem solving skills. She befriends and liberates pirates under the tyranny of the Pirate Queen – who just wants to play with you…she gets scared by but eventually comes to the aid of a ghost who forgot what was most important to him. And even meets her idol, Amelia Earhart, in the space between the clouds and the stars. The dialogue is romantic and inspirational. Young Josephine reaches the pinnacle of adventure – she climbs new heights with Earhart – Morris is perfect here, daring, brash, inspirational but also a little sad. Yet, Josephine realises that her story is a different one entirely. The cardboard props are playful and whimsical, and along with a children’s book illustration inspired projection, create the very real feeling that you are inside one of your favourite storybooks.
Everything concludes well – it’s not one of those adventures that you don’t want to be over, because it’s not really – every story has a beginning, middle and end, but Josephine’s story is only just starting when the play itself ends. Josephine! is a sweet, clever, plucky, and honest girl. Nothing is sugar-coated here – she does break down, is riddled with self-doubt, fear, and anxiety – death is another part of life, and whilst sad, McArdle’s script proves that it can even help us live better lives. So, go and join Josephine on her epic journey – after all, every adventure starts with the first step.
WHEN: 6 – 17 February 2018 | 6:00pm
WHERE: The Blue Room Theatre | Fringe Central | Northbridge
INFO: Tickets $20 – $27 | Duration 50 mins | Suitable 9+ | WA Artists | CHILDREN’S