The Ghost's Child
Adapted by Sally Richardson
Fishtrap Theatre/Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
Like the sea eagle described by the heroine Maddie in The Ghost's Child as the most beautiful thing in the world, the sound of Melanie Robinson's voice and cello keens and glides around the intimate space of the Fishtrap Theatre, creating its own updrafts on which this production rides.
The mood evoked by Robinson's live performance and recorded effects is the elemental heart and soul of writer-director Sally Richardson's adaptation of the Sonya Hartnett young-adult novel about love and loss, and Matilda (Maddie) Victoria Adelaide's quest to find the world's most beautiful thing, which turns out to be a wild boy called Feather.
Combining music, theatre, dance and shadow puppetry, the story is told from Maddie's perspective as an older woman (Nicola Bartlett) in her lounge room after a young visitor (Oliver Wenn) elicits her reflections about her past life.
Katya Shevtsov plays her younger self and dancer Kynan Hughes expresses Feather's restless, untamed nature in a series of solos and duets with Shevtsov. There is a touching moment when this ghost from the past also sweeps up Bartlett from her feet, giving physical form to her nostalgic yearnings.
Romantic dreams of distant lands are evoked as all four performers manipulate battered leather suitcases into boats, doorways and windows, or unfurl gauze netting into a wave-tossed sea under Jenny Vila's lighting design. Like Hughes' dancing, these give visual shape to Maddie's lounge room reminiscing.
This production stands on its own terms, independent of the book, but there are some quibbles: the floor-work, in dance and puppetry, at the front of the stage can barely be seen from beyond the front row; a domesticated kitchen scene adds a lovely pots-and-pans contribution to the soundscape, Foley-style, but somehow stalls the progress of the story.
Commissioned by the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and co-produced by Performing Lines WA, The Ghost's Child deserves to be seen by a wider audience than the two dozen who saw the midweek matinee. Let's hope it gets to travel as far and wide as its protagonist.
The Ghost's Child ends tomorrow