A powerful punch: Good Little Soldier

12 July 2017

Review: Good Little Soldier
Ochre Contemporary Dance Company and The Farm
Subiaco Theatre Centre
9 July
Reviewed by Nina Levy

Good Little Soldier packs a powerful punch. A collaboration between WA’s Ochre Contemporary Dance Company and Queensland-based dance theatre company The Farm, the work tackles the challenge of post-traumatic stress disorder head-on. First presented in Berlin in 2013, Good Little Soldier was developed in response to director Mark Howett’s own experiences of growing up with a father afflicted by PTSD.

The story centres on returned soldier and PTSD sufferer Frank (The Farm’s Gavin Webber) and the impact of the illness on him, his wife Trish (Raewyn Hill) and son Josh (Otto Kosok). Frank’s flashbacks take the form of the ghosts of two fellow soldiers (The Farm’s Grayson Millwood, and Ian Wilkes). They could be mistaken for live friends, initially, as the three men drink and joke. These spectral interactions, however, quickly become a window on Frank’s nightmarish war memories.

Good Little Soldier often teeters between humour and horror, keeping the audience in a state of high alert. Like Trish and Josh we know that laughter will inevitably give way to a violent outburst — it’s just a matter of when.

While the work is scripted, the highly physical choreography is central, and it’s performed with guts by the Perth cast. An early trio sees Webber literally climb the walls, hauled upwards by Millwood and Wilkes. A push-pull duo between Hill and Kosok is impressive for its finely tuned moments of counter-balance and resistance, especially when one considers that Kosok is a year 12 student making his debut alongside Hill, the artistic director of Co3. Webber and Hill’s final, brutal duo to a rendition of “Falling in Love Again”, that, like their truce, skips and falters, is executed with savage energy by the two performers.

It’s all accompanied by acoustic and synthesised music that ranges from poignant to discordant (Dale Couper and Matthew de la Hunty), and the sound effects of war (Laurie Sinagra).

With its corrugated iron sheets, glass louvres and washing lines, Bryan Woltjen’s set has a gritty beauty, especially in combination with lighting by Howett and associate Chloe Ogilvie.

The only wobbly moment comes when the narrative digresses from Frank’s story to discuss the PTSD suffered by Aboriginal people as a result of European invasion. A necessary conversation, but it feels like a token gesture.

It’s a minor flaw, however. Good Little Soldier is gut-wrenching and compelling dance theatre.


Good Little Soldier plays Subiaco Theatre Centre until July 30.

This review first appeared in The West Australian newspaper, Tuesday 11 July.

Top photo: Raewyn Hill and Otto Kosok in Good Little Soldier. Photo: Peter Tea.

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

Past Articles

Read Next

  • Cabaret festival. A singer wearing a fur hat is on stage with a pianist, guitarist and drummer. We can see the dress circle seats of the theatre in the background lit in a greenish light. Tributes to musical idols light up stage

    Tributes to musical idols light up stage

    23 June 2022

    A cabaret veteran and opera performer bring very different interpretations of the greats of classical, jazz and pop in the second week of the Perth International Cabaret Festival, writes David Zampatti

    Reading time • 6 minutesCabaret
  • A semi circle of 8 singers, with one standing in the centre, facing an audience. They are in a large hall and there are cnadles, chairs and pot plants decorating the floor around them. Vanguards bring poetry to vocal music

    Vanguards bring poetry to vocal music

    20 June 2022

    Armchair poets become legends in their own lunchtimes in Vanguard Consort’s imaginative Saturday Night Poetry, writes Claire Coleman.

    Reading time • 5 minutesMusic
  • Pull the Pin A scene from Pull the Pin in which Caitlin Beresford holds a bowling ball up in front of her. The room is dark and she looks pensive. It’s a strike!

    It’s a strike!

    20 June 2022

    Local theatre company strikes just the right note, with a feel-good story of female friendship and tenpins, writes Claire Trolio.

    Reading time • 5 minutesTheatre

Leave a comment

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio