Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fox ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, July 6 ⋅
Review by Bethany Stopher ⋅
Based on the book by Margaret Wild, Fox is a beautiful show that incorporates puppetry into dancing with ease.
As the lights dimmed we could see the shadow of two trees being held up by performers. The lights flashed to represent lightning and suddenly we could spot orange silk unfurling from the sides of the stage. The magpie (played by Gala Shevtsov) flew around the stage, twittering loudly, until the fire snatched away one of her wings.
Right from the start Fox was captivating. The performers were very convincing, acting exactly like the creature they were portraying. Magpie was very quick on her feet, emitting high-pitched wails that sounded very similar to the actual bird. Dog (played by Scott Galbraith) was very boisterous, making the little kids laugh with his antics and scratching. Fox (played by Rachel Arianne Ogle) was a very sinister character with a vicious snarl and twisting body.
Whilst simple, the scenery was also very effective. At the back of the stage there was a sheet used to project things on. Most of the time it was just a plain colour or pattern but sometimes they were illustrations from the book, which I found a nice link to the source material. The sheet was moved from backstage in certain scenes, which made a rippling effect or the ripples of water dropping on a pond.
The lights (controlled by Graham Walne) and music also had a big impact on the emotions of the story; when the characters were happy, the lighting was warm and the music upbeat. When the story turned unpleasant the colours were stark and the music intense.
“Puppetry involves giving life that didn’t have life in itself,” director Michael Barlow stated at the Q&A session after the show. It was interesting how many of the children had questions for the cast, which shows how involved they were in the experience.
One thing that I particularly liked was that use of the narration from the book as a voiceover. If anything got too scary for younger children it reminded them of the fact that it was a story and nothing terrible was actually happening. Although the show stuck to the storyline of the picture book, the depth of the emotions and meaning were thoroughly explored. This made it a very enjoyable experience.
The puppets, made by Leon Hendroff, are truly works of art. They added so much to the performance as the actors became them and gave them a personality. I especially admired the fox puppet, a fox head perched on the hand while vibrant silk draped over her arms along a piece of wire. This gave a very life-like effect.
Overall, I was very impressed with the show. It is an emotional, inspiring story that cleverly incorporates dance. The actors were brilliant, the puppets amazing. What more could you want? Definitely a must see for the holidays.
Pictured top: Dog (Scott Galbraith) and Magpie (Gala Shevtsov) are playful friends. Photo: Photo: Simon Pynt.