Tag: Mechanics Institute

Melbourne Fringe 2016: PINOCCHIO RESTRUNG

Clever and illuminating rethinking of classic tale

By Myron My

We all know the “traditional” tale of Pinocchio: the wooden puppet who just wanted to be a real boy. Created as a grim Italian children’s novel by Collodi, and sanitised for the Disney movie, emerging theatre company A_tistic have cleverly re-imagined this story as part of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival in quite a different way and with some brilliant results.

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A_tistic aim to tell stories that highlight the experiences and create an understanding of autism spectrum disorders so writer and director Tom Middleditch has adapted Pinocchio’s tale as an allegory for a boy with autism who is attempting to become a “real boy”. Middleditch, himself on the autism spectrum, has created a thoughtful intelligent story that not only looks at the anxieties and difficulties people with autism can experience but also those their parents undergo in attempting to understand and accept their child as they are.

Matt Alden as Pinocchio is very comfortable with the character and material, and his mannerisms and body language do well in conveying the thoughts and feelings a person can have with autism. The visual cues of how someone with autism processes information are done simply yet highly effectively, such as when the ‘running puppet’ is deciding upon his name. Similarly, Edan Goodall and Sam Barson are entertaining to watch as Geppetto and Crichton, particularly Goodall as his character tries to find a way to build a relationship with Pinocchio.

The naturalistic costuming that highlights the personalities of these characters is well thought-out, however I feel some subtle creative touches could have benefited the characters of the Blue Fairy (Sophie Jevons) and Fox (Kristiane Burri). The same can be said about the set design and its painted cardboard backdrops. However, due to Middleditch’s strong engaging narrative, the weaker design actually supports the play by allowing our focus to easily remain on the characters without any of our attention wavering.

With Pinocchio Restrung, A_tistic accomplish exactly what they set out to do. With accessibility and inclusivity such an important aspect of the arts, it’s great to see theatre companies putting on works that not only open up discussion on issues people may be less familiar with, but also allows those less often represented to see themselves on stage.

Venue: Metanoia at the Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydey Rd, Brunswick, 3056
Season: until 17 September | Thurs – Sat 6.00pm, Sat 2.00pm
Length: 90 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image by William Anderson WA Photography

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REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre’s HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE

Steering audiences into daring but dark theatre

By Ross Larkin

Melbourne’s Mockingbird Theatre are fast building a reputation for tackling challenging, confronting and somewhat heavy-handed works – a risk for even the most iconic and established theatre companies to consider.

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It would be reasonable to question whether such a choice were wise in a relatively young collaborative.

Incest, mental illness, homophobia, sex and violence have been the hot subject matters of late for Mockingbird; the mere suggestion of which would drive the less brave to contemplate a Wizard of Oz remake.

An astonishing relief, therefore, to not only feel comfortable Mockingbird can pull it off, but to know they can, and have, knocked it out of the park.

How I Learned to Drive, by American playwright Paula Vogel, is arguably the closest to the bone Mockingbird have ventured to conquer thus far. The 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning script, examines perhaps the heaviest and most controversial of issues imaginable. Pedophilia.

Not a subject many of us care to discuss, let alone be subjected to head on in theatrical format. However, herein lies the success of the play. It delicately and subtly unpacks the story of a teenage girl, affectionately referred to as Lil’Bit, growing up in Maryland, during which time, her uncle Peck teaches her to drive.

Some of the most poignant moments of the play evolve from the insinuating language, as Uncle Peck warns her of the dangerous drivers on the road, and how to defend herself as a driver. Truth be told, the real monster is right beside her in the vehicle, grooming and brain-washing, to later take advantage of her in various calculated ways.

While her Aunty insists Lil’Bit “knows exactly what she is doing”, and cries about wanting “her husband back”, How I Learned to Drive becomes Lil’Bit’s struggle to defend herself against, not only her predator, but the scorning, victim-bashing tongues of the time.

Sarah Reuben is exceptional as Lil’Bit, portraying innocence and fear with a believability that moves and disturbs, while the equally engaging and nuanced performance by Jason Cavanagh as Peck, will send tingles down your spine.

Meanwhile, viewers battle between hatred and pity over such an unhinged, yet somehow frail character as Peck, who is, apparently oblivious to the horror of preying on the teenage girl he claims to love.

A remarkable supporting cast, and the usual firm direction from Chris Baldock, makes How I Learned to Drive another proud notch in the Mockingbird belt, and one certainly not to be missed.

How I Learned to Drive is playing now at the Mechanics Institute in Brunswick, Tuesdays to Saturdays 8pm from May 3 – 18, 2013. Bookings via Trybooking.com or bookings@mockingbirdtheatre.com.au