Primal fears of dark spaces and what lurks there permeate tales told across cultures and time. WA company Rorschach Beast make their family-friendly mystery-comedy contribution to this genre at Melbourne Fringe with Girl in the Wood.
The ‘Girl’ is Peggy, a mere lass looking for her much-loved older brother Chuck, some time after he stormed off following a family dispute. In her search, Peggy meets many characters that help or hinder her quest to rescue her sibling.
In the programme notes, Writer Geordie Crawley and Director Izzy McDonald recall their childhood and gave motivation for the piece: “There is so much fun to be had with fear and kids shouldn’t miss out on that.” The cast (Salacia Briggs, Tristan McInnes, Alicia Osyka, and Geordie Crawley) also devised aspects of the story. The particularly good moments of this collaboration tend to highlight some unevenness.
The show is aimed at kids, and some repetition of plot points is to be expected. This was very overdone though on some matters whereas some other (possibly more important) points weren’t revisited. The story also has the lumpy feeling that the completion of one of Peggy’s tasks doesn’t seem to serve a purpose.
Possibly due to the confines of the Rehearsal Room, staging was a bit clunky. We could see the actors’ costume changes, killing the suspense of what was would happen next. And, the big villain is an incredibly low-rent prop that isn’t going to scare anyone even a little. Either rethinking this, or playing more for laughs, would make this much more satisfying.
Comedic aspects were handled quite well as shown by laughter from kids of all ages in attendance. We got to meet a range of characters; cowboy Johnny Arkansas wandering the wood looking for his Father, some crones who are more than they first appear, and a group of bandits with crucial information for Peggy. All of the eye-widening and big performances certainly suit the target audience.
Incidental soundscapes by Sound Designer Robert Woods made useful contributions to the changes in mood as the story navigated its twists.
Whilst Girl in the Wood doesn’t match the suspense and wit of a Rama Nicholas offering, Mary Weather’s Monsters – it also doesn’t have any colourful concepts or language to worry parents. It is still a Fringe-worthy show that kids might particularly enjoy. Take them along, and help Rorschach Beast get some cash together so that they’ll be able to build on the promise of these early ink blots.
Melbourne Fringe – Girl in the Wood
Fringe Hub: Arts House – Rehearsal Room, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Friday 16 September 2016 – 6.30pm
Season continues to 23 September 2016
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: Girl in the Wood – photo by Court McAllister
Review: Jason Whyte