Review by Cicely Binford
Who knew that Scottish tigers were so ferociously fun? All the way from Glasgow comes Barrowland Ballet’s Tiger Tale, a show that’s proved itself a roaring success across the world. Created by Barrowland Ballet founder and choreographer Natasha Gilmore, and presented at the State Theatre Centre of WA as part of AWESOME International Arts Festival, Tiger Tale is set to work its feline magic on Perth audiences this week.
Three people with bucket-heads are on stage waiting patiently for us to be seated; the configuration is in the round, with two rows of chairs for the adults and a row of chair pads on the floor for the kids. The stage is a cube with four walls of taut cord strung at criss-crossing angles, and from the top of the cube are hung a couple dozen metal buckets. One of the people on stage periodically polishes the front of the bucket on her head, while another person sits bent over, and the third person lies starfished on the floor. As the lights come down, these three reveal themselves: a mother (Kai-Wen Chuang), a father (Vince Virr) and a daughter (Jade Adamson).
The mother is obsessed with keeping everything clean, while the father and especially the daughter struggle to keep themselves in proper order. The daughter hears the low calls of a big cat from outside the cube, and she longs to break out of the daily routine. She keeps finding orange feathers, holds them tightly in her hands as she falls asleep. The father comes along and takes the feather from her hand, and stashes it away in his cuff — along with a whole bunch of other orange feathers he has tucked away in there. He suddenly escapes the cube, their home, their routine, and leaves the mother and daughter to test each other’s patience on their own.
Soon, though, we see something emerge from behind the seats — it’s the father, now dressed from head to toe in an orange suit! He crawls through the crowd, prowls along the floor among the children sitting there, stretching a leg here till it just touches someone’s face, climbing laps there, making his way through the entire room. He smells like oranges, rather fittingly, and eventually he begins pulling mandarins from his suit and tossing them inside the cube at the mother and daughter.
He’s now shown his true nature, and this shakes the family status quo right to the core; through his tiger infiltration into their orderly space, the family learns to play again and embrace the messy chaos of life, though the mother has quite a hard time adjusting. Eventually the parents reconnect, and whereas before they were all business, saying “Sorry!” every time they nearly came in contact with each other, now they embrace, laugh and tumble together. The daughter and mother reconnect as well, showing tenderness and smiles where they used to treat each other roughly.
The mischievous Vince Virr as the tiger elicits wild giggles from several of the floor audience, and his enormous roars (sound cues provided by musician Kim Moore, who also sings, plays violin, guitar and melodica just offstage throughout) do send a few of them scurrying to mums’ and dads’ laps; but they’re still riveted to the story and loving every minute of it. The Tiger lowers a few of the buckets, and the trio must very nimbly avoid being whacked in the head as the buckets swing. So many close calls make for exciting viewing! The other buckets are tipped and hundreds of oranges and pine cones spill out — another set of squishy and prickly objects to avoid!
The trio have been performing this Tale for a few years now, but it shows no signs of growing stale – which is probably largely due to the highly interactive nature of the piece. They dance with exuberance, and we can clearly see their intentions and emotions in their movement and faces. Kai-Wen Chuang‘s transformation from stern, nervous mum to beaming, tender mum is wonderful; her radiant smile warms the room. Jade Adamson is entirely relatable as the confused, neglected daughter who tries just about every trick in the book to get her parents’ attention.
By the end, the happy family invites us all into the cube with them to celebrate, play and join in the controlled chaos. This is one show that kids will remember and talk about for years to come, so don’t miss this opportunity to prove that families that roar together stay together.
Tiger Tale runs until 8 October at 10:30am and 2pm at The State Theatre Centre of WA. For more information and tickets, visit the AWESOME website here.