King Jack, adapted by Jennie Vaskess from the play Jack and the Midnight Monsters by Kate McNamara. Original music by Meg Colwell, directed by Tim Hansen. Designer, Hilary Talbot. Canberra Youth Theatre directed by Jenni Vaskess at Ribbon Gum Theatre, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. School holiday season till October 12, 2003.
Sensible people like me arrived in time for morning tea before the 11.30 am start last Friday with a hot thermos, a honey sandwich, an umbrella, a cushion and two warm woolly jumpers. So, as you would expect, it snowed.
Though the snow passed over and the local kookaburras appropriately announced dry weather just as the show opened, I was extremely glad of my double jumper and cushion in the open air theatre. Yet the littlies for whom this musical story is designed seemed not to notice the cold, while their parents kept on smiling bravely.
There was plenty to smile at from these young performers, acting and singing in the face of environmental reality: not just the wind, but surrounded by gums without ribbons and not too many epicormic shoots after the January firestorm. In the original play the character Kell represents all of Jack's night-time fears, but Talbot made a mask and costume in fiery colours and shapes, allowing us to blend the convention of a child's midnight monsters with the reality of the bushfire. All the masks for the bird and animal characters were wonderful, one young boy near me tugging at his brother to "Look at the owl!" Mopoke seemed to look straight at you, ready to eat you up, and yet with large eyes innocent of any wrongdoing: nature is as it is.
The story is of King Cracticus Torquatus, the grey butcherbird who has lost his way, and how Jack helps by passing on the Ranger's information so King has the confidence to sing and listen for his family's song, until he is reunited with them. His success empowers him to defeat Kell, showing Jack in turn how his midnight fears can be put in their proper place.
This is a worthy story for littlies, and a worthy community contribution in return for the small grant Canberra Youth Theatre received from the ACT Bushfire Recovery Taskforce to help with this project.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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