A freelance writer and father of two, I am interested in almost anything the ever-changing city of Brisbane has to offer. When I am not seeking the kid-friendly and affordable, I am tracking the home-grown and the unique... Come and discover with me!
If you have between $15 and $18 to spare, and a child or children aged seven years or older, then this writer recommends hastening to the Brisbane Powerhouse to see The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy, showing as part of the Powerkidz school holiday program until July 7th. This quirky yet absorbing production by Adelaide theatre company Slingsby will be appreciated by those wishing to serve their youngsters some real food for thought rather than pre-digested moral sound-bites, but who still want their childrens' entertainment to retain a sense of innocence, warmth and wonder.
Slingsby Theatre Company: Cheeseboy Trailer
Cheeseboy likes to play sailor games while drifting through the astral currents in a boat, which—much to the concern of his cheesy parents—remains tethered to his equally-cheesy home planet by a single, fragile length of rope. Cheeseboy falls asleep in his tiny craft one night, and later wakes alone in space, unaware that his home has been turned to fondue by a burning meteorite. Eventually he washes up on an Earth beach, where he begins building sandcastles to pass the time until his parents should find him. Frustrated as the tide washes away his creations, he climbs to the Moon and demands that it cease moving the oceans. The Moon assents and promptly falls asleep, leaving no-one to usher in the night. Soon afterwards, Cheeseboy's terrestrial adventures begin in earnest when he meets a kindly gypsy couple who have set out to re-awaken the Moon and thus rescue the Earth from endless day. While accompanying his surrogate parents on their mission, Cheeseboy nevertheless remains determined to discover the whereabouts of his own mother and father, convinced that they must also be looking for him.
In a Visy Theatre transformed into a travelling theatre troupe's tent by the cunning deployment of cloth and wooden benches, Cheeseboy's tale unfolds through an exquisite blend of consummate storytelling and technical trickery. Shadow puppetry, projection art, subtle lighting and minimal but clever props combine with haunting illustrations and delicate music to create a dreamlike world which, while evoking an old-world fairy-tale weirdness in the style of Roald Dahl or the Brothers Grimm, retains ample space for playfulness and humour. The story itself—masterfully delivered by Stephen Sheehan and two faithful assistants—refreshingly departs from the happily-ever-after norms of contemporary children's theatre in building towards a moment of transcendence rather than a moral conclusion. Comic illuminations and gentle wisdoms are instead scattered along the narrative trail like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs, allowing young audiences to swoop in and devour those morsels which they themselves can see.
Stephen Sheehan - Slingsby's Masterful Storyteller (photo by Andy Rasheed)
The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy challenges its audience with moments of real sadness, and with a conspicuous absence of traditional narrative resolutions. The rewards, however, are ample. This is a singular theatrical experience, which with its ingenious stagecraft will not only stretch a child's understanding of the art-form, but which will inspire the imagination—and probably some very interesting family conversations—for days afterwards with its uncondescending treatment of universal themes. Book soon, though, as with such affordable ticket prices a production of this quality is sure to sell out very quickly.