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Reviews/Theatre

Pikachu-strewn swirl of fantasy and reality… oh yes

26 July 2021

Small & Cute Oh No rips away the cuddly façade of toy stores to reveal the seething emotions beneath, and David Zampatti enjoys what’s inside.

Small & Cute Oh No, Squid Vicious ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 24 July ·

Small & Cute Oh No is the second collaboration between the playwright Vidya Rajan and theatre maker Andrew Sutherland, following their critical and popular 2019 Fringe World hit, Poorly Drawn Shark.

Rajan and Sutherland are a powerful creative team; their frank, take-no-prisoners approach to everything from gay sex to power imbalance is as challenging as anything in our theatre.

Small & Cute is a fair bit more structured and a little less wildly confrontational than Poorly Drawn Shark, and, for those reasons, not as gob-smackingly attention grabbing.

It compensates with a cogent narrative and vivid characters. Jen (Caitlin Beresford-Ord) is a middle-aged woman who pleads and cajoles her way into a gig as a Santa in a toy store dominated by the Pokemon franchise and managed by the flaky, capricious Bob (Louis Spencer).

Her affection for children is sharp-edged and needy, and driven, she confesses, by longing for her lost son Jaxon, who’s been missing since childhood.

Jen forms an unlikely alliance with Peter (Ming Yang Lim), the shop’s gay Singaporean accounts officer, whose contempt for Bob, and his unrewarding job, is visceral.

This set-up could have played out as merely a hard-edged spoof on The Office, but Rajan and Sutherland aren’t about to settle on that.

The design is cute in a Pikachu-strewn way. Pictured left to right: Ming Yang Lim, Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Louis Spencer. Photo: Daniel James Grant

Small & Cute becomes a swirl of fantasy and reality, truth and lies, loyalty and betrayal. While some elements of it stretch the conventional logic of narrative, the effect – the parable if you like – is intact and effective.

Lim, who also performed with Sutherland in Poorly Drawn Shark, has a great gift of conveying powerful emotion without histrionics, and Spencer gives three characters – Bob, one of Peter’s twinks, and a boy who just might be the missing Jaxon – individuality, despite his distinctive appearance.

Above all, Beresford-Ord’s bravura performance radiates light and heat; her Jen is generous, volatile, winsome when she wants and incendiary when she has to be. It’s quite an achievement.

The design, by Eilish Campbell (set and costume) and Michelle Aitken (AV) is cute in a Pikachu-strewn way, and Sutherland and his lighting designer Jasmine Lifford keep the action tightly focused and propulsive.

Small & Cute Oh No is an impressive addition to the repertoire of one of Perth theatre’s most interesting crews, and well worth checking out.

Small & Cute Oh No continues at the Blue Room Theatre until 7 August 2021.

Pictured top is Ming Yang Lim in ‘Small & Cute Oh No’. Photo: Daniel James Grant

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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