Fringe Review: Children of the Black Skirt
Children of the Black Skirt. Photo by Kirstie Aylett.

Fringe Review: Children of the Black Skirt

Lost in the bush, some children discover an abandoned orphanage and, supernaturally caught there, they learn of Australia’s past through the spirits of previous child occupants.

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Children of the Black Skirt. Photo by Kirstie Aylett.
Children of the Black Skirt. Photo by Kirstie Aylett.

Presented by Ink Pot Arts Inc
Reviewed 13 March 2015

It wasn’t just the fact that it was Friday the 13th that made the Mount Barker Town Hall more than just a little bit creepy. Ink Pot Arts’ Youth Ensemble is on tour, and opened their first ever Fringe performance with Children of the Black Skirt.

Written originally for three actors by Angela Betzien, this version was adapted by Ink Pot to allow for twelve roles. Lost in the bush, some children discover an abandoned orphanage and, supernaturally caught there, they learn of Australia’s past through the spirits of previous child occupants. The historical journey travels through the days of convicts, World War Two, the Stolen Generation and in to modern day. The play examines myriad issues; some delicate in nature. Young audience members may feel the need to ask some tricky questions as a result. That, if I read the Ink Pot team correctly, is exactly the point.

The challenges presented by such an ambitious project were well handled. Cues were met, timing was good and attention to detail noteworthy, particularly the ukulele playing, birdcalls, spooky whispering and tea lights. Speaking of lighting, Thomas Stoll clearly has a big future ahead. His lighting was excellent; utilising all areas of the stage and beyond, and successfully depicting fire, silhouette, different locations and times of day, and moods, ghostly and otherwise.

Occasions of speaking too quickly and poor projection divided the cast, but did not distract from the overall objective. There was obvious camaraderie amongst the troupe, which successfully demonstrated not only the value of youth community theatre, but how much can be achieved by collaborative support.

Abbie Aylett as Black Skirt, in a largely non-speaking role, projected requisite creepiness and mystery. Her final speech, explaining much, brought a welcome clarity. Other convincing performances came from Leila Clendon as Lucy, Brooklyn Pettit as New One and Lauren Holdstock as Old One. Outstanding accents from George Askew and Tessa Bagshaw added neatly to the historical aspects, and mention must be made of Kobe Donaldson as Harold Horrocks in what will last in my memory as “the great cake scene”.

Director David Hirst provided an admirable helm, and, as only the best productions can achieve, has doubtless achieved as much off stage as on. The only bad news in this otherwise great gothic tale is the short public run, with a second and final show tonight in Goolwa.

Reviewed by Emily Morris
Twitter: @EmMo87

Rating out of 5:  4

Venue 1: Mount Barker Town Hall
Season: 13 March 2015
Venue 2: Centenary Hall, 14 Cadell Street, Goolwa
Season: 14 March 2015
Duration: 65mins
Tickets: $15 – $20.
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or at a FringeTix box office (booking fees apply)

 

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