Wallpaper Stories, written and directed by Lynette Wallis.Jigsaw Theatre Company. Touring ACT primary schools February 23 to March 21, 1998. Professional.
Most houses in Canberra have few layers of wallpaper, yet none of the 80 young people at Forrest School last Monday were fazed when Louis exposed 1956, 1932 and 1885 and met the other 10 year olds who had lived in his house. Kenneth Spiteri played Louis' fears, excitement and sadness, yet he had perhaps an easier time than Sarah Snell who played all the other characters in a set only Elizabeth Patterson could have designed - more extrances and exits than the funniest farce.
Entertaining as the show is - the teachers pointed out that not one child lost concentration - the key is education: what last century would have called an education in sensibility. Louis' day at home sick, while his recently divorced mother goes to work, is the beginning of new understanding - for him and for the audience. Divorce makes sense to him - his parents are happier and he has a much better time with them both. But Jeannie from 1956 sees divorce as sin and thinks it's dreadful that his mother has to work. "But she likes going to work," says Louis. So there is Issue Number One.
Especially clever is Wallis' research into language. Maybe Humphrey from 1885, when the house was in an expensive suburb (I imagine somewhere in North Fitzroy or Surrey Hills), is a bit too stereotypically upper class but the script humorously shows language changing over time and between social classes. Issue Number Two.
The big issue for me was human rights, especially the rights of children. Charlie Kelly, aged 10, has his arm torn off by the machine he works on in Humphrey's father's factory. Humphrey's father gives Mrs Kelly £5 so she won't inform the police. 13 is the employment age limit. This year Amnesty International has a campaign on Women's and Children's Rights. Issue Number Three - and the saddest moment in the play, as Louis, with his audience, realises the enormity of what happened to Charlie in 1885.
Fully booked for this tour, I expect Wallpaper Stories will go interstate as it surely deserves. If your school has missed out this time, ring Wayne Collins at Jigsaw on 6247 2133.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
Return to Frank McKone'sHome Page