Review by Laura Money
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre are the masters of children’s entertainment! With a track record that includes The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little Prince and The Arrival they are an impressive force in storytelling through puppetry. Walking in to their Fremantle headquarters, you are immediately greeted by large puppets and maquettes from previous shows. It has a real sense of fun and creativity about it – children are encouraged to draw at a table and play with abandon.
Fox is the world-premiere of a timeless tale of friendship and caution. Adapted from the award winning book by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks, Fox tells the story of Dog and Magpie and their friendship, which is almost comprimised when Fox enters their lives.
Walking in, there’s not a lot on the stage – just two little cane cage-like structures. As the images of rain, lightning and thunder are projected onto the stage, the dancers take the cane and shake it violently to emulate a storm. The accompanying music and sound effects are so convincing, a child in the audience calls out: “I’m not scared!” After the rain comes the lashing of flame and fire. Dancer Rachel Arianne Ogle uses orange silks that wave and billow in a balletic display of fire catching everything in its wake – including the wing of Magpie (Jessica Lewis.)
When Dog (Imanuel Dado) comes along and tries to help, she resists at first but begrudgingly and delightfully accepts his friendship. Lewis and Dado are brilliant as the anthropomorphic representations of these animals. The kids laugh wholeheartedly as Dog scratches and runs about enthusiastically. Magpie and Dog play together, delightfully coarsing through the scrubland and ochre deserts of our great land.
Accompanying the charming, funny and beautiful dancing are the illustrations from the book projected onto a screen at the rear of the stage. This screen becomes the backdrop for the capricious nature of the weather – becoming silver and pocked with rain drops, and orange and punched by the Fox’s shear rage.
Ogle’s portrayal of Fox is not only visually stunning, she literally traces the story in the air as though writing caligraphy, but fierce and noble. She sinuously slides around the stage like the dangerous creature she is, corrupt and beautiful at the same time. The children really respond to her, warning Dog and Magpie with their hushed whispers, yet at the end, when asked what their favourite costume/character is, they answer overwhelmingly: Fox.
Director of Fox and Associate Director of Spare Parts, Michael Barlow says “Fox [is] a dynamic and moving production exploring friendship, belonging, temptation, and risk.”
It truly is a beautiful, enduring tale of friendship and caution. If you want something different to do with your children this school holidays, head down to Fremantle for a great family show. At 45 minutes and suitable for all ages, especially six and above, performances are scheduled daily at 10am and 1pm (except Sundays and public holidays).
Fox is on at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle from 26th September – 10th October 2015. Bookings are essential and tickets can be booked online 24/7 at www.sppt.asn.au or by calling 9335 5044.