Review

REVIEW | Once | A dynamic, whimsical musical meditation on love and passion

Review | Laura Money

I don’t know you, but I want you all the more for that

So begins the signature song from Once – a stunning duet called ‘Falling Slowly’ that features poignantly throughout, perfectly placed for maximum effect. It is the feature piece of a strong musical score, written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova with book by Enda Walsh. This multi-Tony Award winning show is beautifully realised by Black Swan State Theatre Company in collaboration with Darlinghurst Theatre Company and is a whirlwind of music and passion that shines from a vibrant cast. Once is deftly directed by Richard Carroll – the whole stage bursts with the dynamic energy of Carroll’s direction and musical direction by Victoria Falconer who leads from the stage. It’s full of energy and vibrancy as movement director Amy Campbell captures the lively energy of the Celtic score and literally brings each note to life – fizzing and bursting in the air.

On the surface, Once is a love story with a stunning score but its deep connection to music with a fully collaborative ensemble, the relatively short time we spend with the characters reveals it to be about passions lifting and weaving patterns along with the music that doesn’t merely serve as accompaniment but is embedded throughout every element of the show. Bursting onto the stage and leaping on tables, rollerskating, and dancing exuberantly the entire cast play instruments and their movement is like watching a musical score’s notes leap from the page to create a dynamism that makes it difficult to know where to look. The set is the only part of the show that is static, designed by Hugh O’Connor it consists of a pub, music store, dingy bedroom, crowded share house, bank office, recording studio, and vacuum repair shop among other things! O’Connor creates the perfect base of wood panels and furniture that are moved about as needed – not just shuffled by a stage hand but thrown and slid and passed in time to the music by the talented cast who make every scene-change an exciting guessing game of how innovatively the objects can be used.

Guy (Toby Francis), Dublin born and bred is suffering in the throes of heartache. He sings a tortured number at a small pub and then rejects his guitar wholesale before being confronted by Girl (Stefanie Caccomo) – a bold and forthright woman who bluntly saves him by focusing on the music that is so integral to both their beings. Francis plays the confused figure perfectly – he begins stand-offishly and confused by the attention he’s suddenly receiving but it is obvious that his passion for music is part of his soul. Encouraged by a blunt Caccomo, he softens throughout the show and a thread of purity shines through whenever he sings. Caccomo’s character is unique and she plays her well. The fiery passion she has for helping others hints at a vulnerability when internalising, something Caccomo does with her incredible facial expressions. The entire cast is phenomenal, it’s an ensemble that fit perfectly with one another and their love and chemistry glows through the entire show.

If anything, music is the final character in Once, it’s ever present and adds nuance to every single scene. From the Czech folktunes that serve as a greeting to Guy as he enters the world of vibrant dancing and table-top stamping, to a literal guitar army adding their strings to bolster Guy as he applies for a bank loan, to the exciting studio session full of nerves and raw energy, and the beautifully reflective a capella reprise of ‘Gold’ by the men of the show every single music choice is perfectly performed and stunningly realised in this beautiful production. Special mention must be made of Gus Noakes who hilariously sings ‘Abandoned in Bandon’ – his bank manager persona’s foray into singer-songwriting. It’s terrible, and that’s a huge compliment, as you have to be a really accomplished singer to perform deliberately badly. Once is about passion and love, and missed opportunities, and so much goes unsaid. ‘Falling Slowly’ is a gorgeous song – with Francis’ strong, unwavering voice combined with Caccomo’s powerful and resolutely passionate sound the two form a memorable and heartbreaking duet that is impactful enough at the beginning but is truly devastating when reprised.

Black Swan State Theatre Company have a great reputation for musicals, but Once elevates the company to new heights as it is such a beautiful celebration of music and love it’s going to be hard to top. This is a five-star, 100%, phenomenal musical that will stay with you forever, and maybe even encourage you to jump up on the tabletops and let its music course through your veins!

Once played at the Regal Theatre in Subiaco from 28th May – 12th June and we already can’t wait for the revival! For more information about the production click HERE.

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022

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REVIEW | Earthside | Giving birth, no one can hear you scream…

Review | Laura Money

Entering The Blue Room Theatre for Earthside feels a lot like boarding a space-craft. You are greeted by performer Kaitlin Tinker dressed in a boiler suit looking every bit like Ellen Ripley herself. Once you’re strapped in and ready for launch, Tinker gently guides you through her traumatic birth story. But don’t worry – this show isn’t tragic or even depressing (granted, it may be triggering for some but does not seek to minimise people’s experiences) it is a truth-telling memoir using the impressive metaphor of space travel and female autonomy in film.

Using space travel as an analogy for childbirth, Tinker navigates her way through the story with humour and multiple references to science fiction. Much like childbirth, a theatre piece is not a one-woman show and Earthside features a great set consisting of a shuttle chair with multiple compartments and stunning graphics by Jeremy Turner create a space-like quality. Tinker ties her story together brilliantly, prefacing it with ‘yes, at some point something will burst from my chest’ and we all wait for it to happen. The alien chest-bursting is such a clever reference – it’s the sci-fi equivalent of ‘the money shot’ and the only part people usually care about in any birth story – boy or girl? Did it cry? Ok, I guess we’re all done now (no consideration for the placenta or stitches or even the mother’s well-being.)

Tinker is a great performer. She is highly engaging and goes through every bit of her story again and again. Her dogged determination to be heard is touching and even though there are lots of laughs, expect a few tears to escape too. Earthside is touching and funny, performed with guts by a super badass mother – it’s childbirth but not as you know it.

You can catch Earthside at The Blue Room Theatre until 7th May 2022. TICKETS

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022

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REVIEW | The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker | Encouraging children and grown-ups to hold onto their wonder

Review | Laura Money

What would be in your box of wonder? Barking Gecko Theatre present intergenerational audiences with this very question in The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker – a charming tale of adventure and, well wonder! Writer Dan Giovannoni and long-time collaborator Artistic Director Luke Kerridge take a young boy’s sense of wonder at the world and sees him grow up and forget to revel in the marvels of the world. Grown up Wilbur (Adriano Cappelletta) embarks on an epic quest into the far reaches of outer-space to explore his inner space and regain his sense of wonder before he loses it forever. It’s an enduring tale of imagination and our capacity to dream.

As a boy, Wilbur Whittaker is a dreamer. He fills a bright red shoebox with his hopes and dreams and inventions to send him into space. You see, Wilbur wants to travel further in space than anyone else. Then he grows up and his shoebox of dreams is relegated to the dusty realm under his bed. In a cleverly depressing series of vignettes, Cappelletta as Wilbur is rendered boring. Trading his backpack for a bland tie he is buffeted into conformity by Jonathan Oxlade‘s phenomenal set. Sliding beige screens create a boring office cubicle, small dining table, ironing station, and train. Kerridge’s direction encourages dynamic movement that mimics Wilbur’s descent into becoming a cog in the adult world. A production line of bodies jostle on the train, piles of paperwork creep higher and higher, and through Oxlade’s clever sliding panels a mechanical calendar is set. But the beauty of the story is captured when Wilbur actually begins his journey. Following a path to his Guardian of Wonder set on a dimming star, the set and sense of adventure gets marvelously thrilling and surreal.

Drawing on influences from eighties adventure movies and media, Giovannoni creates a sense of nostalgia for a lost childhood – as Wilbur heads to fantastical lands the journey feels familiar with a tinge of a past worth recovering. Not only is the plot super tight and cleverly realised, but the characters are phenomenal – the stand out being Princess Fantastic (Grace Chow) a She-Ra inspired thousand year old badass who is incidentally Wilbur’s Guardian of Wonder. Chow is perfect as the plucky and headstrong Princess, full of energy and sure in her convictions. She reacts as a child would, impulsively running headlong into danger but with such zest for life and wonder she is utterly compelling. With a customised theme tune and killer visuals by Tee Ken Ng she joyfully embeds herself into our hearts. Luke Hewitt and Laura Maitland comprise the ensemble cast and both absolutely nail a swathe of lovable and memorable characters. Hewitt’s turn as the charismatically pompous fox Francis gets the kids giggling, and Maitland’s portrayal of The Seeing Star oracle is hilarious and a bit intimidating. They both thrive as administrators of the Bureau of Wonder with dry Aussie delivery that hits a little too close to home to anyone who has ever been on hold in a customer service queue!

The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker is one of those plays that sparkles with life. It is an important work for children to watch with grown ups and encourages reflection and a sense of adventure. Not only is the work a nostalgic gem, it takes the essence of those eighties fantasy adventures and grounds them in an invitation to reinvigorate a sense of play. Princess Fantastic is one of the purest characters to ever grace our stages, and the endearing charm of Cappelletta’s Wilbur has you rooting for him the whole time. So, what is in your own box of wonder, and is it with you at all times? Let’s hope so as the message of this show is clear – always hold on to your wonder – but don’t worry as there are always ways to get it back.

The Great Un-Wondering of Wilbur Whittaker is on at STCWA this school holidays until 16th April 2022. TICKETS

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022

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REVIEW | The Velveteen Rabbit | 100 years of pure enchantment

Review | Laura Money

The Velveteen Rabbit has been delighting children for one hundred years firstly through Margery Williams‘ enchanting picture book and adapted for Spare Parts Puppet Theatre by Greg Lissaman in a stunning production that continues to charm audiences. Lissaman distills the essence of the unique story and gives it a modern twist that is able to be both contemporary and timeless – powerful writing indeed. Featuring stunning design by Zoe Atkinson, a sweeping score by Lee Buddle featuring some classic works, and passionate performances The Velveteen Rabbit is a simply beautiful production that should remain on stages constantly and is deserving of its place in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s repertoire.

Atkinson’s set design is highly memorable – the stage is covered where curtains would traditionally be and black panels slide across to create a shadow puppet or toy theatre effect. This focusses attention on the smaller scale of the toy’s world where they are the lead characters – puppeteers wearing camouflage-like suits that blend in with the wallpaper or background. Director Philip Mitchell‘s style works in concert with Atkinson’s cleverly rendered nursery and hidden shrubbery realm, he uses different perspectives to great effect and with the panels create a storybook come to life. Along with Graham Walne‘s clever lighting design, the backgrounds take on a surreal quality. Performers Michael Barlow, Rebecca Bradley, Nick Pages-Oliver and Louis Spencer are all amazing, imbuing the already expressive puppets by Jiri Zmitko with humanity and distinct personalities. From the hilarious Bandito to the stoic and wise Horse each character comes to life with such vibrancy there is genuine heartbreak when something sinister befalls them. Bradley absolutely shines as both the little boy and the titular Velveteen Rabbit. The naiveite and pure essence of the rabbit is palpable as Bradley stuffs her heart and soul into the little puppet.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre are leaders in charming children’s theatre for a reason. This stunning production of The Velveteen Rabbit is an enduring example of their ability to provide enchantment and pathos to children’s entertainment without losing engagement. This production is remarkably simple – creating ingenious perspectives (a vertical bed with large versions of the puppet’s heads framing the tableau is a brilliant moment), using existing classical music to render the scale of the toy’s world epic, and passionate performers who bring the charming characters to life – The Velveteen Rabbit embodies hope and love and it’s a top pick for this school holidays and many more to come.

The Velveteen Rabbit is enchanting audiences at The Spare Parts Puppet Theatre this school holidays until 23rd April 2022. TICKETS

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022

Review

REVIEW | It’s Dark Outside | Celebrating 10 years of wonderful theatre

Review | Laura Money

It’s Dark Outside makes a triumphant return to Perth in the intimate Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre WA. Debut show of The Last Great Hunt ten years ago, It’s Dark Outside is a powerful piece of theatre that is still as potent and emotional today. With its original cast of founding members, this show’s return to stage is a beautiful reminder of how remarkable The Last Great Hunt truly is and that they are on top of their game. As for the show – it’s stunning and sweet and packs an emotional punch that will leave you thinking about your own little clouds for a long time to come.

Brainchild of Perth theatre makers Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs, and Tim Watts It’s Dark Outside sees all the fledgling hallmarks of what we know to be distinctly The Last Great Hunt. There’s incredibly detailed puppetry, bodily transformations, inanimate objects coming to life, shadow play, and mixed media interplay. Add in a heart-warming story and a distinct soundtrack and you’ve got an intimate and unique take on aging and dementia. That one hits you like a body shock – as the old man (Gray) in mask form and Watts and Isaacs in puppet form goes on what appears to be a whimsical journey full of Western clichés and a few surprises all the while losing parts of himself in the form of clouds that just float from his head. At first they seem fun, like cute little ideas, until you realise they are parts of him that he desperately struggles to retain. There is so much expression and heart in the old man – from Gray’s slow and deliberate movements, to the gorgeous puppet dancing in a reverie of his own past you are rooting for him all the way.

It’s Dark Outside is a true gem of Australian theatre. Almost entirely non-verbal, it takes you on a journey of discovery, memory, and hope. Let’s hope that The Last Great Hunt continue to remount this piece as it thoroughly deserves to be in the spotlight.

You can catch It’s Dark Outside at the State Theatre of WA until 2nd April 2022. TICKETS

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022