This world premiere was indeed a magical evening of theatre. The whole production came together wonderfully to provide an extremely satisfying theatrical experience.
Aspects of these Grimm tales were cleverly interwoven into more modern versions and settings. At times, gritty and unhappy circumstances, featuring female characters who narrated their stories directly to the audience.
The stage was set beautifully with a cleverly constructed gypsy / fairy caravan. This was used in all kinds of ingenious ways to facilitate Yovich's performance. Various drawers were opened to produce props and costume additions. Shutters rose and fell to display wonderfully lit bottles and possessions and were opened to create stages within the vehicle itself.
A gypsy costumed Yovich introduces her story-weaving character who roams on her "adventure before dementia". Real steam rose from her portable stove as she prepares her evening soup and serves up an introduction to the magical sunset hour of story-telling.
Once the scene is set she embarks on the dark tale of Karla, a missing grandchild. A troubled and rebellious child clad in a skimpy mini skirt, boots and a red hoodie! A hirsute dangerous older man becomes involved and seduction of both women occurs "He's my wolf now!" which precipitates Karla's flight deep into the forest. The segment closed with a song entitled "I Know A Path" beautifully sung, as were all the interesting original songs by Joe Lui.
This highly original treatment ran though all the six fairy tales in this exacting one-person show. The next was Collette's story; younger sister of the beautiful Cinderella, and suffering from a massive inferiority complex to the point of self-harm. The diminutive Yovich carried off the sad, ill-fitting adolescent's characterisation with complete success. The song's refrain "I just might change and unleash my rage" was a poignant moment.
With the simple addition of a shawl, we are introduced to Rosie, a meek, nervous "spinster who spins." She is awkwardly talking to a man in a bar with whom her father has set up a date for her. She segues into a story of a tiny man she met at the bar, spinning straw into gold and her desire for a baby which he promises her (Rumpelstiltskin).
One of the many clever devices was using different shawls, fur, wraps and coats to simply change into the character. These were pegged out on a washing line from the caravan at the conclusion of each tale.
After interval Yovich's comic timing was displayed to full advantage in the wickedly funny version of The Frog Prince. Set in a rich suburban home and narrated by Jeanette, wife of the boorish husband and mother of the spoilt and brattish "princess". A conversation takes place with the husband and daughter represented by sock puppets. Their voices, personalities and movements were brilliantly funny. Hilariously, it is at dinner which is also attended by a journalist and photographer doing a story on the family. Their presence places constraints on the behaviour of the father and daughter. The story of the frog encounter with the girl at the shopping centre mall fountain emerges and the frog duly appears and is taken in the family table and the bedroom of the daughter. After a week he has turned into handsome prince/lover. The girl has stopped scowling so much!
The tale of Rapunzel is re-worked using an elderly overly-protective woman who won't let her young charge leave the tower for her own safety. Sensing danger in a lurking suitor/stalker she chops off her long red silken locks crying "You'll thank me in the end!" before disposing of the stranger out of the tower window!
The final tale was Jack and the Beanstalk and featured drug addiction and a dysfunctional family but it wound through many troubles to a positive end for the "good boy" Jack and his mother. Mention must be made of the gorgeous beanstalk created by a lighted vine that rose to the Hall ceiling from behind the caravan. It was very effective, indeed all the lighting was just lovely in this production.
I'm pleased to report a large proportion of the capacity audience rose immediately to give the wonderful performances given by Ursula Yovich, a standing ovation.
Deckchair Theatre presents
The Magic Hour
by Vanessa Yates
Director Chris Bendall
Venue: Victoria Hall, Fremantle
Dates: 17 May – 3 Jun 2012
Duration: 2 hours including a 20 minute interval