|The Splinter | Sydney Theatre Company|
|Written by Ashley Walker|
|Thursday, 16 August 2012 14:50|
Left – Erik Thomson, Kate Worsley and Julia Ohannessian. Cover – Kate Worsley. Photos – Brett Boardman
Your five year old daughter returns after missing for nine months. Just what has gone on during this time? Perhaps these nine months have made her a completely different person.
Mother (Helen Thomson) and father (Erik Thomson) are relieved that their daughter, Laura, has returned after the most anxious nine months of their lives. Alas everyone is not living happily ever after. Laura refuses to speak or play with her favourite toys. Mother's reaction is to keep her closer than ever, brushing her hair and reading her bedtime stories. Father feels alienated from his daughter and he begins to worry that something terrible has happened. Perhaps this girl is not actually his daughter. Are her ghostly captors still playing games with him?
Playwright Hillary Bell, daughter of John Bell of Bell Shakespeare fame, draws inspiration from the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson, as well as Henry James' novel The Turn of The Screw, which also involved missing children and ghosts. She uses thick layers of metaphor to explore the parents' inability to deal with a child who has grown up in the months away from them and the strain this puts on their relationship. The writing falters slightly when Mother and Father reflect on the time Laura went missing. Perhaps we need to see this ourselves through flashbacks.
The development of The Splinter was an intriguing mix of text combined with image and movement based story telling. Bell was commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) in 2009 to do a research project which would lead to the development of a spooky play for children. The play she outlined as a result was a psychological thriller, more suited to adults. When Hillary suggested the play might involve puppetry, the STC set up a workshop with puppeteer Alice Osborne. This workshop was about physical responses to Hillary's text. Hillary did not write a word of dialogue during the workshop but the play was realised afterwards, quickly and relatively painlessly.
The staging of this production is ingenious. Laura is played by a series of strangely beautiful puppet dolls and also by the puppeteers (Julia Ohannessian and Kate Worsley) themselves. This is a clever way of integrating those who pull the strings, into the world of the play. Director Sarah Goodes also directed Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness at STC last year and is clearly in her element with the fantasy genre. The use of smoke machines is particularly haunting.
The Splinter is an imaginatively staged and well executed piece of theatre. Highly recommended.
Sydney Theatre Company presents
by Hilary Bell
Director Sarah Goodes
Venue: Wharf Theatre | Pier 4 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: 10 August – 15 September 2012
Tickets: $35 – $79
Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 | sydneytheatre.com.au
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