A girl with a red head band hugging a man dressed as a piece of paper.
Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A must-see for all ages

Awesome Festival junior review, Cubbyhouse Co. Ruby’s Wish ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, 3 October ·
Review by Bethany Stopher, age 12 ·

The brilliant show Ruby’s Wish, written by Holly Austin, Adriano Cappelletta and Jo Turner, is currently playing at the Studio Underground, State Theatre of Western Australia.

Ruby’s Wish is amazing! The set is really flexible; one scene it’s the clown doctor Dot’s home, where she sobs over yet another awkward moment when she has said the wrong thing, and next it’s a hospital, where seven-and-three-quarters year old Ruby and her single dad count her “bravery beads” (beads given to her for each of her operations.) It’s hard to believe it is all the same set up!

Another surprise; Ruby’s a puppet! When she was wheeled on stage on her bed, a little girl in front of me exclaimed in surprise, “It’s a dummy!” But Ruby seemed like a real little girl as performers Adriano Cappelletta (the dad) and Alice Osborne (the narrator) made her actions so convincing! What was really cool is that when Ruby felt extremely unwell, they would bring out a smaller puppet to show her feelings.

One thing that I don’t really understand is that all the kids in the audience were younger than me; older children must have been put off by the 7+ rating, but Ruby’s Wish is exciting, funny and moving, and perfect for teenagers too. You have a puppet, a stressed dad, shadow puppets, a crane that folds out from a bed and a clown doctor who has a recording instrument on her arm that she uses to create crazy noises to make a sick little girl laugh and a dad believe in wishes… how much better can you get? It is also interesting that the actors (who are all wonderful, by the way) explore what is reality and what is fiction.

And last of all, it’s just plain funny. There is a paper friend called Russel (get it?) and the actors insist on redoing their entrances until they are just right, which sends the kids into hysterics (and adults too!). My favourite part has to be when Dot the clown doctor (Holly Austin) sings a song for Ruby about being absolutely starving, complete with wild noises and flashing lights and then promptly makes her way into the audience and “eats” a few unlucky children!

Ruby’s Wish is a must-see for all families who don’t mind the occasional sad or scary scene, (there are a couple). I definitely recommend it, but you’ll have to dash because it finishes at the end of this week. I’m so glad I got to see it, I hope they make a sequel!

Ruby’s Wish plays the Studio Underground until October 8.

Read our “senior” review here.

Pictured top are Holly Austin, as Dot, and Adriano Cappelletta, as Russel.

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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Ruby’s Wish is a winner

Awesome Festival review: Cubbyhouse Co. Ruby’s Wish ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre, 1 October ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

Theatre for kids (or Bright Young Things, as the Awesome Festival adroitly likes to call them) is so often the best there is that it’s no longer a surprise.

These days I take my seat in the midst of squirming, tousle-haired grommets at a kids’ show with more excitement and anticipation than when I’m with world-weary adults, seeing “grown-up” theatre.

And there’s a good reason for it. Unlike the adult variety, theatre for kids can’t take its audience for granted; get too arcane or too high-falutin’ and the wriggling will go all wormy and the growing minds will go wandering to places you can’t get to.

Get it right, though, and the resulting bright-eyed attention and unleashed imagination will be as immediate and palpable a reward as performers could hope or wish for.

If you want to see what I mean, grab some kids and take them to Ruby’s Wish at Awesome this week.

The kids will be entranced by the story of the brave Ruby, desperately ill in her hospital bed, and the friendship she finds with Dot the clown (Holly Austin) that heals them both. They’ll love the pop music (and even the jazz) that Dot’s character, Dr Audy Yo, conjures up with her vocal loop machine, her hilarious sound effects and her mime. They’ll suffer Ruby’s pain with her, and cheer her courage. It’s just a wonderful show for kids.

If you can’t find any of them, though, grab some adults and take them instead. It’s maybe the best show for ANY age you’ll see this year.

To begin with, it’s a perfect example of metatheatre – the art-within-the-art that exposes the artificiality of drama; that the characters are actors, the dialogue is a script, the action is staging. We know – we are told from the start – that Dr Audy-Yo is Dot, and that she is Holly Austin, that Ruby’s dad is Adriano Cappelletta, that the narrator is Alice Osborne. We are watching people doing something as much as we are watching what they are doing.

What they do, and how they do it, is a magical exercise in sub-creation, brought together with snap, crackle and pop by the director Jo Turner. Ruby is a puppet (directed by Osborne, whose credits also include puppet and movement direction for the Australian production of War Horse) who is tiny when she’s feeling sick, larger when she’s okay. Her nightmares come to life in terrifying animations of skeletal x-ray forests (by The Last Great Hunt’s Tim Watts), monster mop puppets and desperate drowning dreams (outstandingly lit by Verity Hampson).

Triumphant over the pain of illness and the fear of death is the life force in Ruby, brought alive by Dot. Austin has a kind of genius in her performance, a happy, infectious tenacity. She’s like Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky or Audrey Tautou in Amélie. (In front of me, young Xavier, only six, turned to his mum to explain to her what “invincible” means).

She’s sad, too, and frightened, as is her dad, and they make you want them to be happy, and safe.

And you want Ruby’s dream to come true. It’s not, as her dad fears, that she will live to see her eighth birthday.

It’s much more than that. And it does.

Ruby’s Wish plays the Studio Underground until October 8.

Read a review of Ruby’s Wish by junior critic Bethany Stopher, age 12.

Photo: Kathy Luu.

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