27 January 2011

Review: Two Weeks With The Queen

Two Weeks With The Queen
Black Apple Theatre
25 January 2011
Northcote Town Hall
to 30 January

Two Weeks With The Queen was written for children, which doesn't stop grown ups being moved by this beautiful story, and Black Apple Theatre's production for Midsumma reminds us why well told stories can reach our hearts and change how we see the world.

On a hot Aussie Christmas Day, Colin wishes he had a microscope instead of new shoes and his little sister Lou has grabbed all the attention by being rushed to hospital. Colin knows the doctors are being slack when they say they can't help her, so Colin agrees to go and stay with his Aunt and Uncle in London so that he can ask the Queen to send her doctor to help out. Breaking into Buckingham Palace doesn't work, but Colin meets rainbow-wearing Ted outside the cancer hospital in London. Ted is the first adult Colin knows who isn't afraid to say cancer and he knows the best doctors because his friend has been in the hospital for a long time.

Mary Morris's play is based on Morris Gleitzman's 1990 novel. It was a time when long haul flights always went though Melbourne and Singapore, the grim reaper challenged sexual behaviour and made of scared of a little-understood disease.

Childhood cancer, HIV/AIDS and terminal illness aren't a barrel of giggles, especially when you're watching someone you love die, but director Cheyney Caddy ensures that Colin's story is told with the kind of love and humour that helps us get through such times. As heart breaking as some moments are (bring tissues), it's an uplifting and positive story about ordinary people, like us, who overcome fear to be there for the people they love.

Led by Tom Barton as Colin, the cast bring the same love and enthusiasm to the stage and balance the fun with the poignancy. All but Tom play a selection of characters and each has a memorable hero moment when their someone ordinary acts selflessly.

Daniel Harvey's witty design of cardboard boxes, giant stamps and brown wrapped packages solves the problem of multiple locations with ease and the hideous patriotic jumpers, fluro shoe laces, doc martins and Ken Done scarves nostalgically set the time without being overwhelming.

I first saw Two Weeks With the Queen in the early 90s at a time when I'd recently lost a friend to cancer and another to AIDS. From people being afraid to say cancer to the fear of men with HIV, I knew Colin's world even though my world was nothing like it. Black Apple's production let me remember both friends with love.

The children in the audience when I was there adored Colin's adventure because (like the best families) it's full of hope, love and support – as well as attention-grabbing siblings, strange cousins and moments where it just doesn't seem fair. The short season finishes on Sunday, so please grab your families and loved ones and see it together.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com

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