‘Songbird’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 8, 2015

‘Songbird’ is beautifully written piece by WA playwright, Shakara Walley; it is being presented by The Blue Room Theatre and Imprint Productions in association with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company for NAIDOC Week.

This most professional, hour long play can be seen at the Main Theatre in the Blue Room complex, Northbridge each evening at 7,00 until the 18th July.
Set designer, Patrick Howe, has come up with another first (?) for the Blue Room. The scene is the restaurant of an upmarket hotel in Woop Woop. The seating is cabaret style, with numerous small round tables, red tablecloths and a central candle in a glass. In the corner is a small stage for the performer surrounded by velvet-draped walls. On another wall is a fully stocked bar, with an outside patio area in another corner.

Lighting designer, Ashlee Poole has done a wonderful job creating the warmth of the restaurant, the cool of the desert night and the glare of the bush. Mike Podmore is a registered nurse, but is now studying sound at WAAPA. His soundscape includes dramatic weather and sounds of bush creatures, all adding to the authentic atmosphere. The show is stage managed by Rebecca Davidse, who also stage-manages Yirra Yaakin. 

        As Brooke (Bethany Cooper) plucks her guitar and sings in the corner of the restaurant, her face falls, as she sees a face from the past come in and start drinking. It is Leon (James Taylor) her childhood best friend and love.

       Leon has come back to the town with so many happy – and sad – memories. Brooke finishes her song; the barmaid (Rebecca Davidse) serves them a drink. Very quickly the conversation goes back five years. Leon now lives in the city and has changed a great deal since he last met Brooke and her overprotective brother, Mike (Zac James).

       Leon has always loved Brooke, but with a tough minder in the form of her brother Mike, will Leon ever get the chance to develop a relationship?

 

Director, Ian Moopa Wilkes, has gathered a most talented cast. Practically the whole cast and techs are WAAPA graduates, although I believe that Esperance girl, Bethany, who was totally enthralling may just have learned her skills at school. Ian has kept the pace moving beautifully as he moves the cast around the audience, forcing them to become involved with the action.
The Walley family, Desiray, Ricki-Lee, Shakara and Uncle George, wrote the beautiful melodic, original songs. Singer, Beth Cooper, who accompanied herself on the guitar, has the most magnificently clear voice that flowed, naturally and unstrained, completely enthralling.

Ten years ago, the Aboriginal theatre groups would often have suffered the indignity of reluctantly been given a slot in theatre programming, as the ‘token Black offering’. Although, even then they knew they were good, as always they had to work much harder to prove themselves ‘equal’. Now things have turned around, in this production every aspect has been tackled with complete professionalism, from the stunning graphic design of the poster (Amy Williams) to the cleverly constructed script, with its effortless dialogue and the powerful acting. This superb troupe have shown not that they are equal, but indeed one of the best at the Blue Room this season.