Reviewed by Ashleigh Ho
There’s something really extraordinary about children’s theatre that attracts not just the young, but people of all ages. The Red Balloon presented by the Black Swan State Theatre Company, written by Albert Lamorisse and adapted by Hilary Bell, is just a stunning piece of work that takes the entire family on a magical adventure.
On this journey, we meet our young protagonist, Pascal, and his best friend, the Red Balloon. We are also introduced to captivating characters that ‘squeak’, ‘meow’ and ‘coo’, whilst narrating Pascal’s story.
The play itself shines through the physical and melodramatic acting where slapstick becomes the main form of humour. This had the entire audience shaking with laughter. Puppetry is also a prominent feature in the play and accompanies the physical level of acting well.
The Red Balloon is comprised of a cast of six, where the children in the play are split into Casts A, B and C. I had the privilege of watching Cast A, which included the very talented Dylan Christidis playing Pascal, and the charming and just as talented Eloise Hunter, playing the Girl with the Blue Balloon. Both children were very naturalistic in their performance and whilst they had a limited amount of lines, gave brilliant performances through their facial expressions. Sarah Nelson, who played the Cat, did a great job narrating the performance and slinking through the shadows as a cat would. Ella Hetherington, also gave us a ‘hoot’ of a performance as the cocky, jesting Pigeon and Ben Mortley, playing the Rat, had the kids in the audience giggling uncontrollably as he dug wildly in the garbage in his chirpy manner. St John Cowcher played other various roles in the play, and should be applauded for his flexibility in filling many different roles.
However, what all actors must be credited for is the physicality and energy that they put into their performance that took the audience into this new world and brought the play to an entirely different level.
Walking into the Studio Underground Theatre, I was met with India Mehta’s incredible set. It not only created the atmosphere for the performance, but it was wonderful to see the children around me pointing at various parts of the set and creating their own interpretations on what the play was going to be about. Mehta’s costumes were also a great compliment to the set, and something different from the usual ‘animal outfits’ you would see on stage. Trent Suidgeest’s lighting design further sets the atmosphere for the show, and it is obvious that both the set and lighting designer have worked together to create a design that accompanies the story incredibly well. Stage management should also be commended for the smooth scene changes and well timed cues that of course made the play professional and an easy watch.
Sound Designer and Composer Ash Gibson Greig must be credited for the most amazing compositions. The music was definitely my highlight as it created the ambience needed to fulfil the needs of the play.
Chrissie Parrott’s direction was just perfect for The Red Balloon. The use of space, the characters’ physicality and the inclusion of puppetry was what made the entire show so entrancing and had me grinning from ear to ear.
The Red Balloon is a play that caters to children of any age and their families. However, I recommend that every person who has an interest in theatre go see it, as it is definitely something else.
The Red Balloon plays until the 17th of October 2015 in the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia.
Bookings at Ticketek Ph 1300 795 012, in person at venue box office or Ticketek agencies or at www.ticketek.com.au
Photo credit: Gary Marsh Photography