Image: Adam Shambrook
I love kids. No really, I do. Despite currently enduring three of them younger than seven years old, I never seem to tire of their small moments of genius – moments that make you truly believe, if only just for a second, that they are really just short adults.
Joy, Fear & Poetry, written, directed and designed by Natasha Budd, a Brisbane writer, is a “collection of ideas, perspectives and experiences sourced from over 100 children and performed by a cast of 7-12 year olds.” It’s currently showing as part of La Boite’s indie festival, and features two different young casts, who explore the ideas of joy, fear, poetry, art and life in a 60-minute mish-mash of live performance and improvisation, pre-recorded voice-overs, projected script and light and sound production. On opening night I had the pleasure of seeing the wonderfully rainbow-coloured cast ‘A’: David Ishimwe, Hayley Billings, Darcine Abbas, Olivier Nsengiyumva, Kaito Nelson, Ashleigh Geissler and Laurianne Gateka.
Basically the kids play, as kids do – only they have a theatre to do it in, with a custom made cardboard cubby and lots of technical flim-flamery. Mirrors, lasers, i-pads, mixers, torches, microphones and even an oversized roll of bubble wrap are manipulated by the children – it’s truly a kids’ paradise.
The lighting, designed by Joel Redding, was a feature, and quite clever in its execution. Light pops up in nooks and crannies, and frankly, someone chasing a spotlight is always entertaining.
The improvised conversation is fun, and led by grown-up actor, Dash Kruck who is personable, charming and joyful, as usual. But the heart of the show lies in the pre-recorded vox and projected written thoughts of children that have been previously interviewed by Ms Budd. These moments reveal not only the vulnerability of children, but their might and depth as well. I only wish there had been more of this (perhaps spoken live?), as it really was the essence of the show. Also, in terms of balance, the vox was often upstaged by the children at play, which in my opinion was not nearly as interesting. But then, I watch children play all day.
As far as conceptual theatre goes, Joy, Fear & Poetry is headed in the right direction, but feels slightly unbalanced. Dare I suggest – less improvisation, more rehearsed work? Oh I don’t know, they’re kids aren’t they? What may be magic one night could completely bomb the next, and the control freak in me says that’s just not good enough. The mum in me says: go see this – it gives children a voice and doesn’t downsize or patronize.
Joy Fear & Poetry is playing until July 20 at The Loft, QUT Kelvin Grove.