edited by Rachael Hains-Wesson
Barking Gecko Theatre Company’s adaptation of Craig Silvey’s young adult short story The Amber Amulet begins with colourful mailboxes that line the back walls of the stage, reflecting an ingenious interpretation of a quaint suburban neighbourhood. The designer, Alicia Clements, has wonderfully crafted a world where the play’s superhero enters a surreal atmosphere of homes embedded with vibrant, green pastures of "astro turf".
Silvey's adaptation by John Sheedy chronicles the adventures of Liam McKenzie who is “The Masked Avenger” (Will O’Mahony) and Richie “The Powerbeagle” (Sam Longley) as they form a relationship with an unhappy housewife, Joan (Genevieve Hegney). Liam patrols the streets at night, protecting neighbours from errant recycling bins and dangerously low tyres while his faithful Powerbeagle serves as a trusty sidekick, furnishing tools from his shark backpack.The earnestness of O’Mahony’s performance as a precocious twelve year-old, reminded me of the innocence of youth when the world once seemed black or white or right and wrong. Silvey’s text, however, pushes past these initial assumptions and forces both Liam and the audience to re-evaluate the grey areas of life, including falling out of love and the affects of divorce. The Amber Amulet is unafraid to seek difficult answers to life’s ongoing questions and remains remarkably accessible to children as it does to adults.The various performances from Longley such as when he elaborates on his penchant for chasing cats which is described as a personal “kryptonite” there were elicited high pitched squeals from the children. Additionally, Longley's deadpan, eloquent narration also consistently charmed the adults in the audience. Furthermore, the cast's masterful acting was enhanced by what turned out to be a multimedia smorgasbord. Several scenes were pre-recorded and projected onto two screens that were positioned on the back walls, creating a distorted picture of the action. This was a clever and highly successful solution to depicting back-story and more realistic scenes. The added ambiance of dimmed lighting as Liam and Richie entered the Sleeping Giant’s cave to retrieve the Amber Amulet also illustrated the talent from lighting designer, Trent Suidgeest. Subsequently, the use of the characters’ shadows balanced with the action and the story as well as the expertly delivered sound scape from Ash Gibson Greig was a highlight of this particular production. The placement of speakers around the perimeter of the theatre created an element of techno-interaction especially when Richie ran off with distinct sounds of a screeching cat while trashcans toppled over was excellent.
John Sheedy, has once again led the cast and crew in a very energetic and tight-knit production. From the audience’s raucous applause and the flawless integration of media, sound, lighting and acting it was difficult to believe that this was the show's first run.
The Amber Amulet is truly a brilliant night out at the theatre for both young and old, but is perfect for those over eight. Barking Gecko’s The Amber Amulet is showing at the Subiaco Arts Centre from October 4-15, 2011 - don’t miss it.