|Photo by Bob Seary
New Theatre presents GODS AND LITTLE FISHES, by Richard Sydenham and Jamie Oxenbould, at the New Theatre, 420 King St. Newtown, 31st May - 25th June.
GODS AND LITTLE FISHES, is a beautiful gem of a play that the writers control with unerring sensitivity.
It is a play about Grief.
Its narrative wrapping/content is the recall of a terrible set of circumstances of 1960 that disturbed the provincial blanket of protection that Sydney wore - perhaps, Australia, as well - when an ordinary, suburban Bondi family won the Sydney 0pera House Lottery of $100,000 - a fantasy dreamt by all of us a big cheer - only to have a stranger call on the telephone a month later with a demand of extortion in exchange for the safe return of their kidnapped son, Graeme. A huge panic. Then, following, a time of nightmare suspense until the body of a child was found in the sand dunes of Seaforth. Then the confronting recognition in the morgue. The reality is the notorious Graeme Thorne Case, that along with the Wanda Beach Murders and the Beaumont Childrens' Disappearance brought Australia into the age of "stranger danger" and to the Police using forensic science as a tool of investigation, success of conviction.
The setting of this production by Hannah Tayler, has the grief performed on a central platform of furniture with a backdrop of blue and clouds where Frank, the dad, a travelling salesman (Jamie Oxenbould), meets some companions in a surreal dream, a man dressed as a bear (Andy McDonell), a small clown (Eloise Snape), and a strongman (Arky Michael), allowing the facts of a new emotional landscape to be revealed whilst on the outer perimeter edges the true life ordeal is told with Frank, his wife Kate (Katie Fitchett) and his son, Jeffrey (Sarah-Jane Kelly).
The balance between the zones of experience are delicately achieved by this team of artists with dignity and a sense of mission - an ensemble wholly involved with every element that each of them contribute to the gently unfolding "lesson" for its audience. This includes the subtle Sound design by Lloyd Allison-Young and the Lighting support by Grant Fraser. We are smoothly coaxed through difficult terrain and become bewitched, charmed and only slightly bewildered by the adventure of this play.
Harsh reality and the astonishing reservoir of resilience that we have as witnesses of this unspeakable family ordeal, which is illustrated and illuminated for us from this modest stage - which then rebounds for us while and when we regard the pile-on, as we sit in this New Theatre building, of these times of pandemic and war and the perfect storm of climate change and world-wide economic crisis, with a gentle story-telling technique and bravura that inspires not anger and a sense of depression but rather an offer of a small light of hope, even though the glimmerings are far away (All the world's a stage) of our humanness - that we are not only vulnerable but also are resourceful, that we can be survivors however we evolve or mutate as a species. Hope.
GODS AND LITTLE FISHES, and this performance Directed by Richard Sydenham took me to a place of contemplation that elicited comfort and a little joy, despite the darkness of the play's actual content, which I vividly remember actually happening around me when I was a 12 year old living in North Ryde with the newspapers of The Truth and The Daily Mirror, the virulent tabloids of our time, stirring us to a frenzy of cultural fear. But, I'm still here - in fact, we're all still here.
Gentle, almost unremarkable, but a privilege to have experienced. GODS AND LITTLE FISHES.
GODS AND LITTLE FISHES won the 2020 The Silver Gull Award, as an unpublished and unproduced new full-length play.