The young people sitting beside me had read the book and were thrilled at the chance to see it on stage.
They weren't disappointed.
I'd wondered what stagecraft would bring the seascapes, the beach and the pelicans into the theatre. Projections were so real that one could almost feel the breeze, puppetry so skilled that within moments the puppeteers disappeared from our consciousness, and a soundtrack which evoked the wind and the rain and the seasons transported us into their world.
And the actors let the story speak through them – a story of the palpably real understated love between father and son, the strength of the friendship between the first nation outcast and his two friends and the way in which love for three birds enabled each character to grow.
Like many great children's stories, this is a tale for all ages, superbly acted and presented. If there was one stand-out moment, it was when "Mr Percival" dies, and his puppeteer gently strokes the boy's face and quietly leaves the stage. The silence in the theatre was palpable and charged with emotion.
L'Appartement makes me want to read and see every play that Joanna Murray Smith has written. As Amanda Jolly wrote, she has "an ability to flip seamlessly from the personal and domestic to the global and ethical (with) rapier sharp dialogue that is also effortlessly natural and a deft balance between darkness and light, comedy and tragedy".
The audience switched from roars of laughter to the silence of awareness of hurt and insight and back again to laughter. It took a particularly skilled level of acting to meet the challenges of presenting the ebbs and flows of a marriage between sensitive, competitive and loving people who are hoping to heal from hurts and to get away from it all, but find that they have brought themselves with all of their agendas with them. It was only after I left the theatre that I realised that they are in real life a married couple.
This is a very good play – possibly a great one – which manages to be both very enjoyable and also challenging. It is brilliantly scripted, and superbly acted and would have to be at the top of any "must-see" list.
Congratulations to the Queensland Theatre for two magnificent productions.