This is children’s theatre. Maybe I should write this is THEATRE, whether it be for children or us grownups. This production loves us and gives us something for the effort of joining them. We are important to their priorities of action. (Great artistic integrity is in play.) The audience at the large Sydney Theatre, was mostly youngsters and their parents. The response to the one hour and twenty minute play (no interval) was attentive, sharp and rapturous. What more could one want?
The simple, clear uncluttered skill of the writing (Doug MacLeod) captured the young audience from the first moment. A hero and heroine to identify with, a quest to participate in, dangers to circumnavigate together, the full gamut of emotions from the happy to sad are all asked to be experienced and dealt with in a way of adult/childhood maturity that were never diluted or avoided. "Friendship, family, loyalty, memory, challenges, quest, courage" are all there in the underpinnings of a darned good classic story. Mr MacLeod’s text is admirable.
The straight forward direction (Chris Drummond) sets up a clear (unspoken) contract with the audience and then consistently fulfils it, and is amply rewarded. The company must have felt ecstatic when one of the monk/storytellers asked us to imagine him as four separate live animals and we all laughed with joy to do so. Our complicity and imaginations had been won completely. The work that Mr Drummond as elicited from Gabriela Tylesova as the designer is beautiful, clever and functional. The clockwork forest trees are always comforting to watch. There is enough beauty and simplicity of image making to urge us to invent, to see and believe. The costumes were also witty and simple in their communication (the spider costume is sheer pleasure in its design concept.).
The ensemble of actors were glorious in their sensitivity to our responses and it seemed to me that the great circle of communication and imagination was throbbing with creative power between us and them. The hero played by Cameron Goodall (Morton) strikes the right notes of quirky, feisty and endearing. Kate Box is marvellous in her utter sophistication in creative choices, that were persuasive for all her characters, for both the children and the adults. Paul Blackwell (Cuthbert) gives a beautifully judged and empathetic performance as the older, though amusingly confused, companion to the hero on the journey. Rory Walker and Jacqueline Cook round out a very fine cast. Not least in the success of the performance, however is the contribution of Stuart Day, the composer/musician. He is on stage and in full sight to the audience and I believe one of the secrets as to why we the audience join in so whole heartedly to the adventure of THE CLOCKWORK FOREST.
This was a thoroughly delightful way to finish my week. The sheer pleasure of the youthful audience almost alleviated my depression over the so called adult fare that the STC had given me over at The Drama Theatre (The Narcissist.). If you have some young friends you want to reward and bewitch them into the beginning of the love of live performance you could not do better. Highly recommended.
Playing now until 21 September. Book online or call 02 9250 1777.