The Grimstones - HatchedThe Grimstones – Hatched is enchanting; enchanting as a dark fairytale; enchanting for its mesmerising AUSLAN narration and enchanting in the rich yet simple staging.

Blending marionette puppetry and AUSLAN accompanied by narration The Grimstones - Hatched transports you to another world, one where magic can grant the desires of the broken hearted and the young at heart. The Grimstones are no ordinary family. Hatched tells the story of Velvetta Grimstone who spends her days crumpled over her deceased husband’s grave. Her grief over the loss of her husband and her dreams to have more children has seeped into the lives of her father Elcho and daughter Martha. She is overcome by her loss and is absent at her trade as a seamstress. Martha Grimstone has the ability to read dreams and Elcho, an alchemist of sorts, apportions medicine to the folk of this far, far away village. Martha takes it upon herself to delve into the secrets of grandfather Elcho’s book of spells. She sets about to concoct a brew which will mend her mother’s broken heart. This she does but not all goes exactly to plan.

This fifty minute fairytale stands out in its staging and design. The expandable suitcases which serve as rooms of The Grimstones world are each intricately designed and richly furnished. As the doors of the suitcases are opened to the audience it is impossible not to want to lean in and peer into the minute world of these puppets. Velvetta’s sewing room; Elcho’s apothecary, Martha’s bedroom and Mortimer’s crypt span the stage as the puppeteers manoeuvre their charges between the rooms. The genius of the simple stage design lends itself to the street theatre style which puppeteer Asphyxia had in mind when developing the show. This is also evident in the size of the set which is barely two feet high (the puppets likewise). The staging of Hatched would be more effective in an up close environment like street theatre than in the environs of a theatre. Be sure to get a seat near the front.

The performance of puppeteers Paula Dowse and Asphyxia is engaging and lively. Their quirky onstage personas create a balance to the fragile world of The Grimstone family. Endearingly, the puppets call upon their puppeteers to help with reaching high shelves or pouring delicate bottles of potion as if aware of their own limitations on the stage. At times the performance feels as if it in need of further refinement. The sound design by Ania Reynolds supported some of the more immature elements of the performance. Technically the control of the puppets at times let down the characterisation. The subtleties of movement needed to express the emotion of the story were at times lost in stilted movement or overshadowed by the work of the puppeteers. Though this flaw can be forgiven when considering that Asphyxia is self taught in the marionette theatre, is the creative force behind the set design and construction whilst also devising and writing the story. The Q&A after the show highlighted the craftsmanship and talent of the artists involved, this is not an art form you can stumble into. For puppeteer Asphyxia this is a labour of love. This is a production which makes you realise that as a sum of all its parts it outweighs the whole.

Judith Wright Centre presents

Venue: Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
Dates: Tue 21 – Sat 25 July 2009
Times: Tue 6.30pm, Wed – Sat 11.30am + 6.30pm
Tickets: Full $20, Concession $15, School Students $12, School Groups 10+ $10 per student
Patrons who book to the show can book to “Auslan For Everyone” sign language workshops for free
Duration: 50 mins
Bookings: 07 3872 9000

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