19 November 2009

Review: Africa

Africa
Malthouse Theatre and My Darling Patricia
14 November 2009
Tower Theatre, CUB Malthouse


When a show opens with a baby’s head in a microwave oven, you know you have to keep watching.

My Darling Patricia use puppets, design and performance to create the most evocative and original images of Australian urban existence. They see the epic in the most mundane and leave us unsure if the world they expose is beautiful or horrific.

The Tower theatre is draped in children’s linen, covered with characters and colour and faded by love. I didn’t see my washed-til-it-was bare Paddington Bear quilt cover, but there was a pink Pierrot with a frill that I would have coveted at seven.

This Africa isn’t savannas and safaris, but filled with things that we hope define and protect childhood: toys, games and the consistent belief that life is already good and going to get better, despite the horrendous bumps that happen along the way.

Inspired by a true incident, it’s the story of a Courtney, her best friend Cheety and her little sister (played by puppets). On a not unusual night, when they are given a packet of chips and the TV while her mum goes out with her latest man (real adults), the kids discover Africa and plan to escape.

Under the veil of whimsy and nostalgia, My Darling Patricia reveal the murky reality and desperate yearning hidden in the back rooms and porches of our suburbs. Although we don’t approve, we accept a bit of drunken promiscuity and lax supervision from a young mum who hasn’t had the best life, but our hearts break when she finally sees the violence of her boyfriend; not because she is alone, but because she won’t let him give the kids his Christmas presents (even a drunken, skinny bogan Santa can bring great presents). If there were a hat to whip around the audience at that point, the collection would have bought Courtney the best karaoke machine on the market.

Africa was developed in a Malthouse Tower Theatre residency. I can’t say enough good about this program that lets independent companies develop and perform to a larger and receptive audience.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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