The Deep, based on the book by Tim Winton, adapted by Justin Cheek. Spare Parts Puppet Theatre directed by Noriko Nishimoto. The PlayhouseSeptember 17-20, 2003.
Absolute envy was my main feeling at the end of this beautiful presentation of how Alice overcame her fear of swimming in "the deep". She had a mum and a dad, a brother and a dog who all swam every day just for fun. I was brought up in chilly London among people who always wore a raincoat so we wouldn't catch cold, and never, ever, went into the water.
So when Alice, fascinated by the dolphin, without thinking, forgot her
fear, and spent such a wonderful time among the silver fish and blue-green bubbles, I just felt so jealous. I too knew all about building sandcastles, but I still can't swim.
But then I remembered how her funny round-tummied dad and her long-tall mum had kept her going by saying how different people can do different things. I realised that The Deep is about more than just learning to swim. It's an engaging metaphor for learning to let go of your inhibitions and dive into whatever you really feel that you want to do in life. I guess the theatre is one of those things for me, so now I feel much better.
Like the children around me, from babes in arms to grown up children (including the director of Canberra Theatre, David Whitney and even the DPP Richard Refshauge), I knew this was great theatre. Not a show which entices the children into crude cheering and booing, The Deep is subtle in its effect.
Even the very young could understand the humour in the relationships among the boat people, when they raced each other, or commented on Alice's predicament, or were caught in a sudden swell. Everyone jumped when Alice sat on the crab, and enjoyed the joke when Alice tickled the crab in return. There were long periods of almost absolute silence as the children absorbed the enjoyment of being in the deep with Alice, played out in fluid movement, luminescent colour, and a meditative soundscape.
50 minutes in The Deep immerses children in excellent theatre.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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