Dive in for delightful sea change

2 July 2023

Make way, city slickers. This Great Southern creation is awash with laughter, music and magical mayhem – and it’s heading to Perth, writes Julie Hosking. 

The Magical Weedy Seadragon, Breaksea 
Albany Entertainment Centre, 30 June 2023 

Where I grew up – Bougainville Island, then the Pilbara – there wasn’t much to speak of in the way of live performance.  On the rare occasions someone rocked up to perform, it was like royalty had landed. My mum kept a signed photo of The Four Kinsmen (look them up, children) for decades. 

Anyone who has called a regional area home knows that distance really can be a tyranny for the arts and those who love them. Which is why organisations such as Breaksea – and productions such as The Magical Weedy Seadragon – are so important. 

Embedded in the stunning Great Southern, Breaksea doesn’t just create work in the regions, this small team of world-class professionals champions local talent and encourages community involvement.  

Pia Harris and Tadgh Lawrence in ‘The Magical Weedy Seadragon’. Photo: Nic Duncan

Take The Magical Weedy Seadragon. Months in the making, it was created through a series of workshops with half a dozen local schools. The students’ ideas were not only listened to but incorporated into the show. 

That could be a recipe for disaster in lesser hands. But steered by opera singers and co-writers Pia Harris and Matt Ward (who also directs), all the pieces of this charming story about the power of friendship weave together in the kind of chaotic whimsy that enchants children and adults alike. 

The front rows of the theatre are set aside for some of the co-creators – children from Mt Barker Community College and Denmark Primary School – and they are pumped. Sporting retro cossies, the three cast members come out early, bouncing beach balls around with their young audience, before the show begins. 

James Walmsley’s set is simple but endearing: Three boards, a large one at the back flanked by two smaller ones, depicting child-like beach scenes serve as impromptu dressing rooms as the cast disappear and reemerge as different characters.  

Jarrad Inman struts his stuff as Eelvis. Photo: Nic Duncan

There is The Child who is so unkind that the Magical Weedy Seadragon (a mischievous Tadgh Lawrence) turns him into a puffer fish (played by whichever cast member isn’t busy doing something else).

Then there’s Eelvis the electric eel (played with Presley swagger by Jarrad Inman), whose opinion of himself is bigger than his impressive pompadour, prompting the seadragon to take away his electricity. Desperate to get his power back before a talent quest, Eelvis must make a real friend to break the curse. But how can he convince Child Puffer Fish?  

As our anti-heroes navigate their way to becoming better humans/fish, aided by famous singer Jell.O (Harris evoking a fairy floss-like Mary Poppins with floaty pink umbrella) and the hilariously misnamed seagull puppets Search and Destroy (created by Tessa Laing), they also need a little help from the audience.  

All hands immediately go up to be part of the talent quest, to perform or judge. The seadragon (who dons the world’s worst disguise as host to ‘fool’ his cursed subjects) chooses a mix of children and adults, who really get into the seaside spirit. 

When a sea of dancers from Let’s Shine all-abilities performing group emerges, you can feel the love in the room. In shades of blue and green, they move like leafy coral as Jell.O sings Blue Diamond Waters. Can Eelvis really top that? 

This talent quest entrant really gets into the spirit. Photo: Nic Duncan

The music by Jonathan Brain is infectious, with everyone encouraged to sing the Seadragon theme on multiple occasions, and Michelle Ward’s costumes are delightful. As is the whole experience.  

AWESOME Festival artistic director Jenny Simpson is so impressed with the creative forces at Breaksea that she booked The Magical Weedy Seadragon for this year’s festival sight unseen.  

Tonight, her faith is rewarded. After the first of three soldout shows at Albany Entertainment Centre, she speaks of the elegant simplicity of this sweet and funny production. I couldn’t agree more.  

It’s also simply wonderful that a show created by and for the people of the Great Southern, driven by leading artists determined to see the arts flourish across the State, is being brought to Perth.  

More power to Eelvis and the gang! 

The AWESOME Festival runs 26-30 September 2023. Keep an eye on the website for The Magical Weedy Seadragon’s Perth dates.

Breaksea’s next production, Thunderstorm, is at the Art Gallery of WA on 16 September 2023.

Pictured top: The Magical Weedy Seadragon takes a well-earned bow. Photo: Nic Duncan

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Author —
Julie Hosking

A journalist with more words to her name than she can count, Julie Hosking has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Melbourne and Perth. She has been a news editor, travel editor, features editor, arts editor and, for one terrifying year, business editor, before sanity prevailed and she landed in her happy place - magazines. If pushed (literally), she favours the swing.

Past Articles

  • Spring into the school holidays

    From Awesome activities to magical nannies, there are so many marvellous ways to have a jolly holiday, writes Julie Hosking.

  • In the eye of the storm

    Breaksea’s poignant story of the search for light in the darkest hours ignites the senses. Julie Hosking rides the waves of emotion.

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