21 Forster St

21-Forster-St-Poppy-Lynch-Kate-Walder-Damien-Warren-Smith21 Forster St. is the address of an 1860’s heritage home in the village of Bungendore NSW. It is the home which Kate Walder’s father lovingly restored and renovated and which held many powerful memories for her.

Deeply moved while watching from across the road, as 21 Forster St. was being prepared for sale following her father’s death, Walder was inspired to create this multi-disciplinary theatrical reverie to the house and its history.

Devoid of any particular story the work functions like a dreamscape as various incidents, real and imagined, are enacted by Walder, Poppy Lynch and Damien Warren-Smith who portray a variety of characters associated with the house throughout its history.

The simple lives of the original owners who built the house, a macabre doctor who set up a practice which inspired rumours, babies born to a contented couple, even hippies who apparently took possession, all move through the dreamscape, lovingly evoked using a variety of theatrical disciplines including mime, tableau, voice-overs, projections and sound effects.

The work is greatly assisted by Stephanie Howe’s graceful multi-faceted design which allows the actors to create a continuous stream of changing images by gently manoeuvring various elements of the setting, introduce furniture and properties, and make simple costume changes to denote the passage of time and changes of fashion over the years.

The sounds of bush birds, a magpie attack, the crackling of the fire in a pretty fireside scene, the sounds of baby’s being born, chooks beheaded, happy children playing, all feature in Clare Hennessy’s atmospheric sound design.

Benjamin Brockman takes advantage of the many opportunities offered by Howe’s setting to create a series of lovely stage pictures for which John Shortis has provided a clever pastiche of charming melodies to reflect and enhance each incident portrayed by the hard-working actors.

Kate Walder has written a beautiful, very personal and affecting work, and while there is much to admire, and the intention and passion behind its creation is clear, 21 Forster St still looks very much like a work in progress.

The work clearly needs a strong directorial eye cast over it to sharpen execution, clear away the unnecessary scenes, detail and props which currently slow the pace, clutter the narrative and prevent this potentially beautiful show from flowering.

21 Forster St
The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 253 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan
Performance: Saturday 28 May 2022
Season continues to 4 June 2022
Information and Bookings: www.theq.net.au

Image: Poppy Lynch, Kate Walder and Damien Warren-Smith in 21 Forster St (supplied)

Review: Bill Stephens OAM