Thursday, 17 September 2015

They Saw A Thylacine, 16 Sept, 2015 ***

Created & performed by Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, until Oct 4, 2015 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***
Full review will be published here after publication in Herald Sun online today. KH
 Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton: Rehearsal pic by Pia Johnson

So, how do you transform the sad and shameful story of the avoidable extinction of the Tasmanian tiger into a simple but illuminating piece of theatre?

In They Saw A Thylacine, Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton employ good, old-fashioned storytelling, rhyming dialogue, bold characters and direct address to expose the incompetence that led to the extinction of the Tassie tiger, AKA thylacine.

79 years ago on September 7, 1936, the last known Tasmanian tiger – a female – died in captivity in the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart.

On an almost empty, clinically white stage, Campbell and Hamilton use dramatic and evocative monologues to tell their tale of ignorance, fear, sexism and wholesale trapping and killing.

Campbell plays Alison Reid, the real-life daughter of the last zookeeper at Beaumaris zoo, while Hamilton is a fictional character, Beattie, a tracker who pursues and catches a yipping thylacine in the wilds of Tasmania.

As the articulate and determined Alison, Campbell exposes the ignorance and fear of the zoo authorities and their sexism that prevented Alison from saving the life of Ben, that last thylacine.

Hamilton’s Beattie is a raw, primitive, young woman living rough but clearly committed to taking the tiger alive, despite the blood lust of her undesirable companion, Fred the trapper.

Although the two actors share the stage and acknowledge each other’s presence, their characters inhabit different times and places and reveal a litany of bad policies and idiotic decisions that killed off the thylacine.

While the pace of this one hour show is gentle, the conservation message is uncompromising and the two actors create strong characters and some vivid imagery with little embellishment.

There could be more dynamic range in the rhythm of the piece and it might benefit from a little more physicality, but this is an engaging production with a heart and a strong message.

Kate Herbert


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