Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Riddle of Washpool Gully

Presented by Terrapin Puppet Theatre in association with Dead Puppet Society
Written and directed by David Morton
Review by Anica Boulanger-Mashberg
The only way to get to Washpool’ says the storyteller, ‘is to take the wrong road, without knowing it.’
Unless you go to the theatre to find it. Which you definitely should – whether or not you have small persons in tow.
A young boy and his mother arrive in Washpool hoping to escape the small ghosts of their own past, but are instead confronted by their present and the way forward. Against this light cautionary tale of family dynamics builds the bigger mystery of the ‘monster’ said to inhabit the gully and terrorise the tiny town. What follows is an unexpected relationship with this ‘monster’.

The Riddle of Washpool Gully is greater than the sum of its splendid parts. Those parts are many. A slick cast (Guy Hooper, Melissa King, and Drew Wilson) who have individual integrity and gravity as well as ensemble strength. Gentle direction (David Morton) that makes transitions between actor, puppeteer and narrator (and between scales – human to puppet) seamless and satisfying. A delicate, poetic, entrancing, yet bold and grounded narrative that sweeps you up from its first to its final words. 

A dedication to storytelling (never to the exclusion of a sense of play) that grips the audience and leaves not a second wasted, yet never with any hurry to the journey. A gorgeous score (Heath Brown) and a simple but elegant, almost fluid set, which together complete the world of the play and weave a safety hammock below you as you step into freefalling, willing disbelief for the entire 50-minute performance. Puppetry that is confident (with only occasional mechanical let-downs) yet never showy, always in service of the story. 

This production made me cry. It reminded me what theatre can do, and be. It’s beautiful. Go see it.

The Riddle of Washpool Gully is presented by Terrapin (in association with Dead Puppet Society) and has a season at the Theatre Royal Backspace (13 – 21 April, times vary) as well as in Launceston at the Earl Arts Centre (27 April).

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