REVIEW: Girl in the Wood | Reasons to Stay Inside | 34,000 Forks

Day #3 of Summer Nights sees us checking out two children’s shows and a ghost story, and the normally daunting task of reviewing 3 back-to-back sessions was a breeze with these excellently fun productions.

 

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Girl in the Wood | Rorschach Beast

Imagination is the winner in this highly anticipated (and consequently sold-out) work from the team of writer Geordie Crawley and director Izzy McDonald. Crawley has come up with a brand new dark fairy tale that very closely follows the Grimm brothers’ footsteps into the woods. It feels familiar, but maintains its uniqueness and charm because of fresh ideas, delightful performances and a crafty aesthetic.

Peggy (Salacia Briggs) has lost her brother Chuck (Geordie Crawley), who is being held captive by a monster that dwells in the forest. She must go on a quest through the woods to find three objects in order to get the beast to release her brother, and along the way she gets help from a kindly lost cowboy (Tristan McInnes), who is himself on a quest to find his missing father. She comes up against a pair of hungry ladies (Alicia Osyka and Geordie Crawley) and a trio of rough and tough forest dwellers (Osyka, Crawley and McInnes) who challenge her to fight for two of the objects she’s supposed to be gathering. Just when it looks like Peggy is well on her way to winning her brother’s freedom, things start to fall apart.

Tristan McInnes keeps getting himself involved with the best indie projects in town, and he’s got the kind of charisma and sensitivity as a performer that will keep him in demand for years to come, though I have a feeling we could lose him to larger markets if we’re not careful. And darn it if his Southern accent ain’t pretty dang accurate! Alicia Osyka keeps on delivering the goods – she too is getting well-deserved exposure around town these last few months, and it’s wonderful to see her be able to see her display a range of gifts here. Director Izzy McDonald must solve many problems of personnel and space (i.e. just the four of them having to manage characters, costumes, props, masks, and more in such a small space), which she does adroitly, making the most of every performer and every inch of the stage.

This truly is a show for the young and the not-so-young, as I don’t think we ever lose our fascination with the mystery, danger and fantasy that are found in fairy tales. This show has oodles of potential to become bigger, scarier and more beautiful, should it ever gain a bigger production budget. That’s not to say it doesn’t have oodles of charm in its current simple form, but it does mean that what the group has produced leaves the door wide open for future development.

 

Reasons to Stay Inside photo by Hayden Bevis 2

Reasons to Stay Inside | Clark & Warner

Cute, cute, cute.  A small person’s version of Briony Kimmings’s Fake It ‘Til You Make It. Another breath of fresh air from Melbourne.

Flora and Pedro are best friends. They are 11. They do all the things that 11-year-old best friends do: run around, skateboard, go to the park, greet neighbours on the street. But suddenly, Pedro can’t seem to go outside anymore, and he begins to make a list of reasons to stay inside, while building himself a massive fort to protect himself from “The Thing.” The Thing growls at him from the darkness, and can only be heard and felt by him. Flora is both angry and sad that she and her best friend don’t do the things they used to do. She tries everything she can to get Pedro to come outside. It’s not easy, because Pedro’s fort is big, and his list is long.

Emma Annand is Flora. She’s not 11, she tells the audience, but she is playing an 11-year-old. Oliver Coleman is Pedro, and he’s not 11 either. But the both of them are very good at pretending what it’s like to be 11, and they somehow magically manage to make everyone else in the audience feel like 11-year-olds too. We all laugh at fart jokes, silly dancing, and we all feel Flora’s frustration and Pedro’s anxiety. We all learn a lot about patience, loyalty, kindness and trust.

You don’t even need to have or borrow a kid to have a reason to see this creative, colourful, silly and thoughtful show, though if you do, you’ll be scoring some serious points with them. The kids in the audience loved every second of it, and, well, so did I.

 

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34,000 Forks | sandpaperplane

Here’s a stage comedy that looks, feels and sounds like it belongs on TV. Seriously, when’s the last time we had a funny ghost sitcom? Let the guys from sandpaperplane and co-writer/director Jackson Used pitch this pilot episode to you and tell me it wouldn’t be better than that dramedy with Claudia Karvan and Super Hans, Spirited – you remember the one. Ok, maybe a bad example. But still, I think it could work, and I’m sure most of these guys’ friends who were in the sold-out audience last night would totally agree with me.

34,000 Forks is a comedy-drama about two best friends who live and review restaurants together. One is more or less a hold-down-a-steady-job type of guy, Sam (Thomas Owen) and the other, Freddie (co-writer Ben Thomas), is more of a free-loading but loveable free spirit. Then one night after a tragic car accident, Freddie becomes more of a free spirit than ever: he’s free from his body, but not free from this earth. He returns to haunt their old flat as a ghost that only Sam can see, and is charged with figuring out how to set himself free from the earthly plane. He gets embroiled in a love triangle with his closest female friend, Pippa (Grace Chapple) who he suddenly realises he loves, and her flaky, top-knotted new boyfriend Mark (Kieren Clancy-Lowe). Will he break them apart and send her a message of undying love from beyond? Or will he let chips fall where they may and stay hanging around Sam’s place forever?

The opening scene, in which the two describe their meal at a trendy new French-Mex restaurant, runs at a galloping pace with very clever, snappy dialogue shared between Thomas and Owen, who work off each other like two old buddies for sure. Watching them it’s hard to pick a favourite, and it’s easy to see why they appear to have a whole roomful of fans for their performance. But suddenly things take a dramatic turn, and the breezy ease of the story’s pace comes to a bit of a halt. Fortunately comic relief comes in the form of Ghost Freddie, and once again, the buddy comedy resumes. There is a kind of too easy solution to the two dilemmas in the piece; plot twists seem a little bit too convenient, a la M. Night Shyamalan (what a twist!), but that doesn’t ruin the fun.

If the folks at sandpaperplane can maintain the velocity of this runaway hit and deliver an equally sharp follow-up, we could very well have a hot new independent company to keep an eye on.

 

CICELY BINFORD

Reviewed 24.01.16

For tickets, times and more information visit The Blue Room’s website here.

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