Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's Dark Outside: A Bittersweet Journey

Perth Theatre Photo by Richard Jefferson

An old man reaches for a light and fluffy cloud in his kitchen. The cloud drifts beyond his reach and he starts on a journey to follow it.

Through a forest of gnarled trees, across a desert, past memories of war, and under the sparkling night sky, he is followed by a man with a butterfly net who has started to collect bits of cloud in his net. We do not know why the man with the net is there but he seems to be chasing the old man who has stumbled across a WANTED poster with his face on it.

Live action clowning, gives way to animated sequences, followed by elaborate shadow play and puppets. It’s Dark Outside is a production of the Perth Theatre Company from Australia and a trio of creators, Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs (their previous work was The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer). Here they have produced a dream-like world with haunting music (by Rachael Dease) and imaginative imagery.

It can be at times sparkly and beautiful and at other times a little dull and repetitive. But when the show finished and one of the cast-puppeteers offered audience members hugs I nearly took him up on his offer. You will need one.

This quiet and ambling story builds to a painful and beautiful conclusion. I don’t want to spoil the discovery but trust me, the wordless adventure of this old man speaks volumes. Even someone like me, with a heart of stone, who rolled her eyes a little at the opening bit of clowning, was broken in the end. Perth Theatre Company, you got me and got me good. I thought to myself during the show that it reminded me of UP—but without the boy, the balloons, or the jungle. And in the end that was a fair comparison. It’s a delicate show with its heart in the right place.

It could be a tick shorter overall, but no matter, the message was worth the meandering journey.  Bring your tissues.

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