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The Miracle Worker

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by Jenny Rossiter (subscribe)
Writer, photographer, educator, explorer of places new, with a passion for adding fun back into life.
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The story of Helen Keller
The Miracle Worker, Helen Keller, Arts Theatre, Anne Sullivan, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide

There is nothing quite like live theatre to immerse your senses in a story. The Miracle Worker tells the true story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. This is top-quality story-telling with clever sets and brilliant acting. The use of audio recordings and dark lighting brought in the emotional early life of young Annie, her demons and her subsequent strength. She arrives at the Keller house, aged only 20.

The Miracle Worker, Helen Keller, Arts Theatre, Anne Sullivan, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide
There is nothing like live theatre.

Anne's challenging childhood steels her to survive Helen's rebellious but sometimes humorous acts. 'She is like a little safe, locked, that no one can open.' Not deterred by her headmaster's description of Helen, Annie uses sign language to spell words onto Helen's hand. She seeks to open a channel of communication for Helen. 'Words can be her eyes. ..with them she can think,' Annie tells Helen's parents. 'Her hand aches to speak out. How can I nudge that ache?'

The Miracle Worker has written by William Gibson and first performed in 1959. In 1962, it became an award-winning film starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Patty Duke returned to The Miracle Worker in a new role in 1979 with Melissa Gilbert. There was another remake in 2000. This timeless true story continues to impact and inspire.

The Miracle Worker, Helen Keller, Arts Theatre, Anne Sullivan, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide
The Miracle Worker is at the Arts Theatre.

The 2019 play, directed by Geoff Brittain, is performed by the Adelaide Repertory Theatre at the Arts Theatre. Once seated on their new blue comfy seats, the eye is drawn to the open entrance to the Keller home, an external timber slat wall and an upstairs bedroom. The multi-tiered stage works like a doll's house. Skilful set design by Ole Weibkin and Aliy Pehlivanides allow the audience to view family interactions in several locations at one time. The story flows seamlessly without need for frequent set changes. So immersed in the story were we, that at intermission we were amazed at how quickly the time had flown.

Act Two opens in a new location. The ironic parallel in physical and social distance from home was delightful. Helen's family go to great lengths to convince her that she is staying far away from them. Annie has determined the way forward must involve separation from family life where Helen abuses her freedom at home to behave badly without correction.

'Obedience is the gateway through which knowledge, yes, and love, too, enter the mind of the child.' is one of Annie's gems that was relevant in 1887 and just as relevant in 2019.

Rich Negro spirituals twine in and out of the narrative. 'You're Gonna Reap Just What You Sow', underlines Annie's dedication. Another magical musical moment linked Anne with Helen's mother Kate in the same emotion, as they both sang a lullaby while sitting in different locations.

The story of the unnoticed elder brother James, slowly unfolds alongside Helen's. There are echoes of The Prodigal Son, as he seeks his father's affection and recognition.

Grab a copy of the program for its beautiful photos of Helen and her perceptive quotes. I will leave you of Helen's insights: 'The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.'

Performance Details

William Gibson

Geoff Brittain

Helen Keller...Henny Walters
Annie Sullivan...Jess Carroll
Kate Keller...Jenny Allan
Captain Keller...Brian Knott
James Keller...Ronan Banks
Viney...Therese Hornby
Aunt Ev...Jean Walker
Mr Anagnos...Stanley Tuck
Percy...Luca Camozzato
Doctor...Bill Ramsey

Thu 4 Apr at 8.00pm
Fri 5 Apr at 8.00pm
Sat 6 Apr at 8.00pm
Wed 10 Apr at 8.00pm
Thu 11 Apr at 8.00pm
Fri 12 Apr at 8.00pm
Sat 13 Apr at 2.00pm and 8.00pm
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*Jenny Rossiter was invited as a guest
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Why? To be inspired
When: April 5th - 13th (8 shows)
Phone: 08 8212 5777
Where: 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Cost: Adult: $22 / Concession $17
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