Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Puppetry and dance perfect partners

Review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fox ⋅
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, July 6 ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

“There are no words”, my 6 year old whispers, without taking her eyes from the stage.

A storm and then a bushfire raged across the stage, leaving a magpie wounded and crying. We watched as a dog befriended the magpie and then a fox seduced her.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre were using dancers, puppets and a stunning creative design to convey Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks’ book Fox. There were very few words, and we didn’t need them.

Michael Barlow’s production (from 2015), is one of the most profound and beautiful I’ve seen from Spare Parts; a reminder that masterful storytelling doesn’t need words to communicate the deep truths of life.

My daughter loved Magpie, danced by Gala Shevtsov with an alert fragility, her heart torn between her loyalty to Dog and her aching desire to feel the wind in her wings. My son loved Dog, danced by Scott Galbraith with big-hearted exuberance. And Rachel Arianne Ogle’s Fox was utterly entrancing with a rippling silk tail that flickered dangerously like fire. Ogle conveyed the “smell of rage and envy and loneliness” that hung about Fox with her taut leaps and sharp contortions.

Key to their successful character portrayal is the blend of puppetry and choreography (Jacob Lehrer) and the exquisite design (Leon Hendroff) and costumes (Nicole Marrington and Sheridan Savage). Graham Walne’s lighting and projections convey the heat of fire and jealousy, the calmness of water and trust and the tumult of storms and grief. The metaphors are reinforced by Lee Buddle’s sound track which includes the sounds of smashed glass and distorted electric guitar (Fox), the friendly fun of a folk band (Magpie and Fox) and the serenity of a flute and rain soundscape.

The visual and aural metaphors carried the story deep into our hearts. My junior critics identified strongly with the characters and engaged in lengthy discussion afterwards. They felt the show had an undercurrent of sadness and fear. But the exquisite beauty and playfulness of the dancers kept a finely honed emotional balance. This was one of the best children’s theatre productions we’ve seen.

Fox continues until July 20.

Pictured top: Rachel Arianne Ogle is utterly entrancing as Fox. Photo: Simon Pynt.

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