Set in the coastal Coorong region of South Australia, Storm Boy lives an existence which is simple and natural but not entirely free. His home is a beach shack and he is tethered to remain within view of his reclusive father, Hideaway Tom. He is also commanded to stay out of sight of people and have no social interaction with others.
Such an existence may have been more feasible when Colin Thiele’s book was originally published in 1964. It was released as a film in 1976. Invasive drones had not yet been invented. Throughout the performance, I could not set aside my maternal concern for the psychological well-being of this motherless, isolated child dominated by his abrupt father.
An isolated setting with reclusive protagonists presents a challenge to the director (Sam Strong) who is not using a narrator or voice over. Scarcity of conversation between hermits will inevitably effect the scripted dialogue. Difficulty in presenting the tale is further exacerbated by the absence of any poetic language with emotional depth.
Wisely and well cast, the three actors performed strongly in their roles. Conor Lowe making his debut as Storm Boy, John Batchelor as Hideaway Tom and Tony Briggs as Fingerbone Bill.
I found the stage setting believable and liked the intermittent oceanic images which enabled set changes to occur. Theatre requires representation. I considered the use of metal creatures with visible puppeteers ingenious and an extraordinary audience experience.
Theatrical presentation and live performance cannot be compared with what we expect from film. Anything is possible on screen. Theatre is an art form which requires audience concentration and the processing of thought. These are crucial skills which may have been blunted by constant exposure to technology and artificial intelligence. I am thankful that theatre still exists and good productions continue to be staged.
Playhouse – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Cultural Precinct, Southbank (Brisbane)
Performance: Wednesday 31 July 2019
Season continues to 17 August 2019
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
Image: Conor Lowe (Storm Boy) and Tony Briggs (Fingerbone Bill) in Storm Boy – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Michele-Rose Boylan