Louder than words

5 July 2018

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, The Farmer’s Daughter ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, 4 July ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Being a writer, I love words… but I’m also dance-trained and so there’s a special place in my heart for shows that engage in story-telling through movement. In Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s The Farmer’s Daughter (which premiered as Farm in 2014 ), the script is just one element amongst many used by writer Ian Sinclair to tell a tale about life on a WA Wheatbelt farm, from the point of view of the farmer’s young daughter (the effervescent Daisy Coyle).

Two-way radio conversations between the daughter and her unseen grandfather (voiced with his trademark charisma by Humphrey Bower) punctuate and personalise the play, but we learn as much from an evocative mix of mime, movement and puppetry as we do from the dialogue. And by keeping language minimal and imagery rich, The Farmer’s Daughter speaks as much to the accompanying adults as it does to its target child audience.

Daisy Coyle against the Venetian blind sun that looms large in the sky. Photo: Simon Pynt.

With a Venetian blind sun looming large against stray wisps of cloud, and stark tree trunks dotting the opening set, the vastness and dust-dryness of the Wheatbelt in drought is palpable (and, at the opening show, was a stark contrast to the wet and blustery Fremantle night outside the theatre).

While the story is simple, the devices used to bring it to life – in particular the clever interaction between Graham Walne’s lighting design with Matt McVeigh’s set – kept Wednesday evening’s audience riveted and my young co-critic scribbling furiously in her notebook. A dancer (the lithe and versatile Ruth Battle) portrays various flora, fauna and weather states; a sneaky sheep, a bounding kangaroo, a violent storm, a raging fire. Sand-topped packing crates become a canvas for sand drawings, illuminated by a sweetly retro projector. Small models of the archetypal windmill and water tank become life-size in torch-beam shadows. Lee Buddle’s soundscapes are the final touch, ranging from bush-band humour to cinematic drama, as required.

Under Philip Mitchell’s direction, The Farmer’s Daughter is beautifully and sensitively performed by its cast – St John Cowcher (the father), Rebecca Bradley (the mother), Coyle and Battle. As aforementioned, the story is simple and, at times, quite subtle. Behind me, one young audience member kept up a constant barrage of whispered requests for clarification from their accompanying adult, but this was the exception. The predominant silence in the intimate auditorium suggested that the rest of the children were thoroughly absorbed.

The Farmer’s Daughter plays Spare Parts Puppet Theatre until July 20.

Read a review of The Farmer’s Daughter by junior Seesaw critic, Isabel Greentree, age 8.

Pictured top are St John Cowcher and Ruth Battle in ‘The Farmer’s Daughter. Photo: Simon Pynt.

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

  • Photo by Jarrad Seng Kids' Gig Guide. A man in yellow sunglasses and a white shirt smiles as he holds up a small dog made from folded cardboard. What to SEE: Winter holidays kids’ gig guide 

    What to SEE: Winter holidays kids’ gig guide 

    22 June 2022

    There’s no excuse for boredom in the July school holidays with a wealth of entertainment and activities around town for the young ones in your life. Check out the winter edition of our kids’ gig guide.

    Reading time • 7 minutesMulti-arts
  • Jesse Chester-Browne and Amy Yarham in a scene from Freeze Frame Opera's 'Hansel and Gretel'. Two actors dressed in khaki and green scout/guides uniforms look at a gumball machine. The glass bowl of the machine is filled with bright glowing strands of light and it is topped with a miniature gingerbread house Classic fairytale gets a modern twist

    Classic fairytale gets a modern twist

    9 May 2022

    Freeze Frame brings opera to a new generation with a light-hearted performance of an old favourite Hansel and Gretel, writes young writer Bethany Stopher

    Reading time • 5 minutesOpera
  • Two men in blue t-shirts and jeans. One is wearing big round glasses and the other has a tall cone hat which is blue with gold stars Potter wizardry casts  chaotic spell

    Potter wizardry casts chaotic spell

    21 April 2022

    Potted Potter is a completely silly attempt to condense the Harry Potter series into a 70-minute show, and junior reviewer Bethany Stopher is totally on board the Hogwarts Express for the hilarious ride.

    Reading time • 4 minutesTheatre

Leave a comment

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio