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Africa

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre InSpace Programme and Mobile States
Reviewed Wednesday 11th May 2011

http://www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/afc/whats-on/theatre/africa.php?utm_source=BCL&utm_medium=Event%2BListing&utm_campaign=Africa

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: 1:00 & 6:30 Thurs 12th, 7:30 Fri 13th & Sat 14th May 2011
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: Adult $29/conc $25/student $20/Green Room $15/group 6+ $26
Bookings: BASS 131 246 or http://www.bass.net.au/events/enta/INSPAFRICA/?utm_source=AFCWebsite&utm_medium=booklink&utm_campaign=Africa

The theatre group, My Darling Patricia, has taken Sam Routledge’s concept, developed into a script by director, Halcyon Macleod, to present a fascinating piece of theatre inspired by the true story of three German children who decided to elope to Africa. It has been transported to Australia where the children are now trying to escape suburbia. This is a multi-disciplinary approach to theatre with elements of drama, physical theatre and, of course, puppetry, with truly wonderful puppets made by Bryony Anderson.

A patchwork screen made of children’s bedspreads hides the set from the audience until the play begins. It falls, and two people in protective clothing pick their way up the various levels suggesting that this is a toxic environment. A little girl, her baby sister and a small boy from the neighbourhood, the three puppets, play together whilst two adults, the human characters, hidden from the waist up, prepare to go out, leaving the children home alone. With the adults gone, they play their games and happen to see a programme about Africa on the television. It captures their imaginations and, from initially playing at being African animals, they decide to go to Africa to start a new and better life.

There is a good deal of humour in their games and the way in which the children communicate through that play. In the early stages the audience is kept laughing regularly, until the true nature of what is happening begins to dawn and the piece takes a darker and more sinister turn as we discover the neglect and abuse to which the children are subjected.

The woman turns out to be the mother of the two girls and the man is her live-in lover. We soon discover what a dysfunctional group this is, in so very many ways. The two also play any other characters that appear. We begin to see that much of the play in which the children engage is a reaction to the adults and their environment.

Performers and puppeteers, Michelle Robin Anderson, Anthony Ahern, Clare Britton, Jodie Le Vesconte and Sam Routledge are a formidable ensemble. It is not only the puppeteers’ enormous skill that bring the puppets to life so convincingly but the enhancement of their performances by the way in which the live actors interact with the puppets as though they were real children. The work is so well directed by Mcleod and so perfectly performed by the ensemble that one can almost believe that the children are alive.

The excellent design, by Clare Britton and Bridget Dolan is based around a series of parallel walls, increasing in height with the distance from the audience until they arrive at the top level, where the adults spend much of their time. Toys are littered everywhere, some in states of disrepair. The gaps between the walls allow the puppeteers to move around the set in semi-obscurity, putting the focus on the beautifully made puppets.

Lucy Birkinshaw’s lighting adds a great deal to the atmosphere of the location and Declan Kelly’s music and sound is equally effective and important. These elements are integral to the production and enhance it with a nice subtlety

This is a remarkable production that will both delight and move you, but it only runs until Saturday so you will need to move quickly to get a ticket.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.


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