‘The Kraken’ and ‘The Darkness’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by June 15, 2016

‘The Kraken’ and ‘The Darkness’ form an exciting double bill presented by Phoenix Theatre Inc. The two shows (an hour each) are $10 apiece and can be seen in the Phoenix Memorial Hall Theatre, 435 Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill on Thursday 16th, Friday 17th and Saturday 18th of June.

The first play, ‘The Kraken’, is PG rated and starts at 7.30 pm, with a matinée showing on Saturday 18th at 2.00 pm.

The second show, ‘The Darkness’, rated M+ – because of the subject matter – begins immediately after the first production.

‘The Kraken’ is a semi-autobiographical play, adapted by Cody Fullbrook from his favourite children’s book. Internationally acclaimed, Brisbane author, Gary Crew, wrote the book. Crew was generous and brave enough to allow Fullbrook to unreservedly make the adaptation.

Gary Crew, who started life as a draughtsman, did not publish his first book until he was 39 years old. Then, as an English teacher, he specialised in picture books for primary school-age readers, his awards include the prestigious ‘Children’s Book Council Book of the Year’ – four times. His illustrator is Marc McBride, who has a wonderful series of books on ‘How to draw Deltora’s monsters’. Crew also has awards for his adult detective fiction.

 

The Kraken

The word ‘Kraken’ is derived from the Scandinavian ‘Krake’ meaning ‘crooked’ and the German (plural) word meaning ‘octopus’.

 The scene is a coastal village in the south of WA. A jetty reaches out into the sea; waves are lapping (artwork Tekima Wiland, Jordy Roelofs). A freezing haar is drifting in. On shore is the back door of a house, with a table and chairs on the patio. On the main stage is the interior of a kitchen. The side of the kitchen bench has Christopher’s artwork displayed on it. Set by Wayne and Sheryl Gale and stage management by Shaun Griffin. The inspired foyer display is enhanced by Dean Goodwin’s photography.

Powerful and low cello and double bass music gives an eerie setting to the cruel sea setting. Slowly and softly, the musician / composer, Miro Kepinski introduces a piano accompaniment.

      It is late in the day when 16 year old Antonia (Simonne Matthews) takes her young brother, Christopher (James Matthews) to his favourite place, the end of the pier. Antonia is holding her kid brother’s hand because he is blind. Christopher has always shown a special interest in the sounds of the ocean. The sister is worried about the creepy darkness, but being blind, this is of no concern to Christopher.

      As they sit on the jetty, Antonia receives a disturbing phone call from her friend (Zack Inglis). At home, their Mum (Rachel Bartlett) answers the knock on the door, to find a saturated fisherman (Adrian Alajberg) selling fish – but strange things happen. The Mum calls her husband (Matthew Sullivan) who is on his way home, and standing on the station platform talking to a homeless man (Ron Arthurs). The father spots a strangely dressed old woman (Samm Coad-Ward) getting dangerously close to the edge of the platform.

      At home, Christopher chats to a young boy (Ethan Dixon) who is new to the area, unaware of the boy’s strange skin colour.

 

The three children were amazing actors, good strong assured diction and enunciation. The story was filled with intrigue and the suspense held until the very end. Most of the parts were short cameos, but the players managed to convincingly portray the full depth of the characters. Samm demonstrated that if you get the walk right, the character falls into place.

The tale is about various forms of fear – real and imagined.

Cody Fullbrook has brilliantly captured the feel of this story, and young adults will leave the theatre wanting to read the book.

 

The Darkness

‘The Darkness’ is a documentary style, contemporary play penned by Brisbane born, WA actor, Bethsaida Tapsall. Originally presented at the 2014 Perth Fringe Festival, this is a revamped and expanded version. This poetic drama is presented by Phoenix Theatre Inc., as part of their new ‘Local Writers’ Showcase’ season.

Starting at 8.30, this one-hour show immediately follows ‘The Kraken’ in the Memorial Hall Round Room in the Phoenix Theatre complex. The choice of this room is perfect, adding intimacy to the delicate subject being enacted. The slight echo of the room also adds an extra dimension to the storyline.

The room is set up as a church for a memorial service, with nightlight candles along the aisle. In the centre of performing area is a memorial with wreaths and tributes scattered around. On one side of the stage is a park bench, to the other, a nurse’s flat.

There is a mix of live acting and film. The video being projected onto each side of the ‘stage’. The video sound was a little variable due to inclement weather whilst filming, and not using a foam windsock on the microphone.

      Seated on a park bench is a middle-aged woman, Patricia (Melanie Hannah). She has three heavy bags of shopping, and so is waiting for her daughter Roxanne (Kate Lloyd) to meet her. However, there is a tragedy and Roxanne dies. In disbelief, the traumatised mother tries to explain her loss.

      Standing on her memorial stone is the ghost of a young girl in a fine shroud, it is the deceased Roxanne. The girl describes her last few moments before her death. Then the hospital nurse, Emilee (Karen Hansord) who is at home after a horrendous 12-hour shift, shares the shocks of her day.

       Roxanne’s sister and best friend, Cherish (Bethsaida Tapsall) is heartbroken at the loss of her soulmate, especially as she was about to introduce her boyfriend, William (Matt Sullivan) to the family.

       Gradually, we learn the full truth behind the relationships.

 

The writer / director combination rarely works, as often assumptions are made as to how well the story’s message is being conveyed to the audience. When the director is also an actor, the problem can be exacerbated. However, thanks to Bethsaida Tapsall’s finely honed talent, she has conquered all three tasks, presenting a subtle, powerful and moving play.

Miro Kepinski has composed the accompanying sensitive, subtle and moving musical background.

The talented cast guide us through the first, roller-coaster stages of mourning, showing the loss of love, feeling abandoned and then anger at being deserted by the deceased. The cast each had their own very different confronting outlook on the impact of death and managed to drive their message powerfully through to the audience.

Most adults will have experienced this ‘darkness’ that has been captured perfectly by a strong cast and the beautifully structured, heartrending script.