on now, Review

REVIEW | Cicada | It’s never too late to embrace life

Review | Laura Money

Barking Gecko Theatre are on the top of their game with this beautiful adaptation of Shaun Tan’s book Cicada. The intimate interpretation sees the little Cicada puppet manipulated by Tim Watts with additional puppetry provided by Arielle Gray as he navigates his tiny world. Cicada takes to his miniature stage and learns to outgrow the confines of his little existence.

Watts and Gray have fantastic chemistry – their playful banter in the beginning and in hilarious mini interludes, interacting with the audience. Chloe Ogilvie brings Cicada’s world intimate with innovative lighting design that cleverly creates the slightly oppressive shadows from office blinds and windows to a gentle glow from a monotonous television. Combined with a magical sounding composition by Jonathon Jie Hong Yang the charming Cicada’s world appears to close in on him.

Cicada is a charming little tale of change and renewal. The hilarious extra commentary added into the script a blistering indictment on greed, and an important lesson in living in the moment. Gray and Watts imbue a humble humanity to the endearing little fellow and his ultimate transcendence is beautifully done. It’s an absolute gem of a show that will linger every time you hear insects sing.

Cicada is on at the State Theatre WA until Saturday 6th August 2022. TICKETS

Regional Tour 2022:

Koorliny Arts Centre (Kwinana) 16 – 19 August

Mandurah Performing Arts Centre 23 – 24 August

Harvey Recreation and Cultural Centre 26 – 27 August

Queens Park Theatre (Geraldton) 31 Aug – 1 September

Broome Civic Centre 8-9 September

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

on now, Review

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

PERTH FESTIVAL, Review

PERTH FESTIVAL 2021 | HOUSE | 5 Stars

Review | Laura Money

There are some tales that are so enduring they embed themselves in our hearts the moment they begin. Barking Gecko Theatre is in absolute top form with this Perth Festival production of HOUSE – an instant classic. Drawing on a rich vein of whimsy, playwright Dan Giovannoni and Director Luke Kerridge have once again struck gold in their emotionally rich tale of grief, courage, and acceptance that feels like a long-established fairy tale. HOUSE is utterly captivating, from its hopeful message of acceptance to its magnificent set and perfectly loveable cast every element of this show is beautifully rendered. It’s a magical tale with a capital M – adventure writ large – large enough to envelop each boy and girl in the audience and fill them with courage and hope. This is a rather special show, indeed.

Giovannoni and Kerridge are in familiar territory with HOUSE – a lonely young girl (the loneliest child in the world in fact) is whisked away and rescued by House and its crew – flying above the clouds so she can heal and learn to accept herself. It’s pure wonder – which is right in this duo’s wheelhouse. The pair have a wonderful knack for taking the essence of childhood literature, containing it in a pressurised script and blasting it in huge colours and whimsy all over the stage. It’s a wondrous formulae that I, for one, can only see taking off much like said House of this work. There’s something irresistibly madcap about this pairing that we all get to benefit from – their writing is exquisite – each character describes grief as a tightening feeling in the chest that they thought would go away but doesn’t, articulating a very feeling is like capturing lightning in a bottle. Their concept is amazing – a magical house that rescues lonely children from around the world is instantly recognisable as possessing all the hallmarks of a wondrous children’s tale. Their world-building is absolutely stunning – from the imaginative ways a house in the sky would operate to the ins and outs of daily life, the environment suits the story perfectly.

And what a story! Beginning in the tradition of Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton, the parents are horrible people and ship poor Cathelijn (pronounced Cat-a-line) off to live with her Aunt in the forest. Chanella Macri as Cathelijn is the most loveable protaganist to grace the stage. Children will empathise with her being ‘too big, too loud and too much’ and laugh at her absolute passion for life despite being constantly beaten down. There’s something delightfully tragic about this happy-go-lucky yet depressed everyman and Macri plays her with a delicate balance of self-doubt and zest for life. When everything goes wrong – I’d like to applaud the team from not shying away from tragedy – and she is rescued we are fully immersed in Cathelijn’s journey. Barking Gecko are an immensely talented bunch as it is, and they have brought together an exceptional team to provide an extraordinary show. Designer Charlotte Lane and Contraptions Designer Philip Millar provide a stunningly whimsical set complete with impressive whirligigs, inventions, hidden compartments, and a whole lot of quirky features! Running the gamut from an oven that cooks whatever you want (it should always be hot chips) to a chair that changes its size to fit you, the entire set is like a comforting embrace – exactly what HOUSE represents. Magical moments abound when the set design shows off and House takes to the sky, eliciting more than a few gasps and jaws on the floor in wonder. A cloudscape completes the scene and the audience is in for a visual treat the entire show.

Not only is the set a veritable Willy Wonka of a design with nooks and crannies that reveal themselves in magical detail, but it reflects its inhabitants to a T. Piotr the incomparable Isaac Diamond runs around with a colander on his head, always talking a mile a minute and feeds this energy back into House. Things have a tendency to break around him and he is sometimes not careful enough to prevent damage. Diamond fizzes with the pure zest that children naturally possess but doesn’t over do it. Both Diamond and Macri portray children in a realistic way which is countered by the wonderful grey-haired Elka (Nicola Bartlett) – a mad scientist type who has boundless energy and zany ideas. Bartlett is a wonderful companion for Macri and Diamond and their chemistry is palpable. Whilst she is an enigma for the majority of the show, Bartlett’s quirks are hilarious and she places Elka firmly in the realm of most adorable characters ever. Each actor is distinct in their characters and the show uses them to explore multiple ways of being.

Stunning lighting and soundscape devised by Richard Vabre and Rachel Dease respectedly complete the simply magical atmosphere. Both serve to bring the picture book design to life and creates a contained world of wonder and delight where the sky is the limit. HOUSE is a lesson in grief and acceptance wrapped up in a charming, whimsical adventure. Cathelijn is loveable and the story is ‘too big’ for anywhere but the stage, ‘too loud’ to be read at bedtime, and ‘too much’ fun for all the family. It is already a firm favourite of mine and I will treasure its beautiful message of love and acceptance and how one can sit with dark feelings even if they identify as whole. HOUSE is where hope truly lies.

HOUSE ran as part of Perth Festival 2021 but check out Barking Gecko’s website HERE to see when it will be landing in Perth again

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to this Perth Festival 2021

on now, Review

REVIEW: Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

As Bambert’s pages ascend the skies in their paper balloons, so too do his dreams and wishes. For, after all, what is a story if not a wish?

There is something intrinsically wondrous in German story-telling – a tangible magic that pulses in the air surrounding the storyteller. Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories is the beautifully staged adaptation of obscure German writer Reinhardt Jung‘s collection of stories. Artistic Director of Barking Gecko Theatre, Luke Kerridge found the charming old tome in a bookshop stuffed with wonders and knew that it would make a beautiful, poignant show. Kerridge and adaptor, Dan Giovannoni take the essence of Jung’s story – that of the power of words, the transformative power of stories, and the humanity of sharing tales, and gives it the Barking Gecko treatment. With an intricate and awe-inspiring set, a veritable costume box of characters encased in a flurry of textiles, and whimsically charming puppetry, Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories leaps off the page and into the hearts of the young, and young at heart alike!

Mr Bloom – played by the phenomenally talented Igor Sas, runs a grocery store. Not just any grocery store – the kind that deals in exotic wares, sourced from all over the world. The shop is filled to the brim with quirky items that seem to be just right for the beautiful, wooden set designed by Jonathon Oxlade. It’s a cabinet of curiosities turned pantry – an Aladdin’s cave that is somehow perfectly ordered, and perfectly magical. Everything has its place, and some of the elements become intertwined with the stories themselves. Sas communicates with the eponymous Bambert (we’ll come to him in a minute) via a charming little lift that is used to send breakfast and sundries up to his attic sanctuary. Dominating the upper space is Bambert’s huge book – a wondrous tome full of enchanting parchment that contain his fable-like stories. When Bambert decides to let his pages go so that the stories can find a home, the real magic occurs – as Bambert’s pages ascend the skies in their paper balloons, so too do his dreams and wishes. For, after all, what is a story if not a wish?

It is an understatement to say that Bambert exudes charm, most notably in the depiction of the character himself – the shrivelled, yet kindly little puppet manuevered and ‘voiced’ by St John Cowcher. Bambert is an old man, so he takes his time walking from the lift to the armchair, and back across to his book. Cowcher’s hilarious little sound effects punctuate each movement, transforming a painstakingly slow journey into a captivating one. After Bambert sends his stories off into the night sky, he calmly sits back and waits for them to return to him. And return they do! Brought to life by the wonderful ensemble (Amanda McGregor, Jo Morris, and Nick Maclaine) the stories are coloured by exotic princesses, far-off lands, spooky London fog, and profound loss lifted by profound hope. As the ensemble enrich Bambert’s book, so too they enrich his life.

Each story takes over the stage through a veritable costume box – the stories thrumming with possibilities. The delivery is the perfect balance between larger than life children’s entertainment and quiet, almost grave, poignancy. Each story is a history lesson and literary wonder in one, and each tale adds to the tapestry of life woven by Bambert. Not to give away the ending, but as Bambert restores his book to its full capacity, he fulfills his own life. Stories and tales are moving, living, breathing things. They heave and groan against the strain of the page, and Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories takes the wildly adventurous, thrill of a story and magics it onto the stage. Oral traditions are every bit as important as reading, and Bambert expertly regales you with the comfort of stories as you hunker down in a comfortable seat, semi-darkness drawing you close. Of course, stories change and can be re-written, so watch closely as the crew give Bambert the ending it deserves.

WHEN: 31 October – 20 November | 1pm & 6:30pm

WHERE: Octagon Theatre | University of Western Australia | CRAWLEY

INFO: Tickets $25 – $30 | Duration 75 mins | Recommended for children 8+ | Wheelchair accessible venue | Saturday 14th November is a relaxed performance

LINK: https://www.ticketswa.com/bambert