Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Golden Valley, Jan 7, 2009 **1/2

Golden Valley by Dorothy Hewitt, Perilous Productions
 Northcote Town Hall, Jan 7 to 18, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2

Australian poet, Dorothy Hewitt, wrote 21 plays including Chapel Perilous, a play based on her own life, The Man From Muckinupin and Golden Valley, her 1981 play for children. Golden Valley creates a mythical rural Australian landscape inhabited by a family of ageing, magical, native animals who adopt an orphan child, Marigold (Zoe Ellerton-Ashley).

This is no ordinary family of creatures; they are human by day and animal by night. Jane is a long-legged crane (Jane Bayly), Em a house-proud wombat (Carmelina di Guglielmo OK), Nee is a red-headed possum (Robert Stephens) and Di is a very old and wise mopoke (Ben Rogan).

Marigold’s adoption from an orphanage run by an Irish nun (Carolyn Connors) is executed with absurd ease an without the red tape of real adoptions. But the joy of her new life with a loving family is short-lived when the villainous owner of the valley, Jack Swannell (Rogan), calls in the family’s mortgage. It resonates with current housing loan issues.

To find a solution to the family financial crisis, Marigold enlists the help of Tib the Witch (Connors) and Nim (Mike McEvoy), a mysterious, green-skinned boy who lives in the bush. Nim is a shapeshifter so he also appears as a wishing tree, the ghost of a gold miner and the heroic Yarraman.

These eccentric creatures, as well as songs and live music by musician, Connors, and the cast, engage the audience of 4 to 10 year olds. But, with children and adults alike, the villain gets the biggest reaction and the chase sequence involving Rogan as the scruffy and wiry old rogue, Swannell, was a hit.

Given the huge reaction to this slapstick scene, the production could possibly benefit from more physical comedy to complement Hewitt’s poetic language, quirky characters and songs and Viviana Frediani-Massara’s (OK) vivid set design.

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