They Saw a Thylacine
20 September 2013
Fringe Hub, Rehearsal Room, North Melbourne Town Hall
to 5 October
Two stories about women who have done something that I will never be able to do: they saw a thylacine. I loved They Saw A Thylacine as much as I love thylacines.
Some time in the 1930s the last one was killed in Tasmania. A marsupial (you know, with a pouch) dog with tiger-like stripes. How can anyone not love that?
Written and performed by Sarah Hamilton and Justine Campbell, it's the imagined stories of two women who saw the last of the thylacines. One tracks a creature to sell it to a zoo, one lives in a zoo where a female thylacine is in a cage.
With writing that kept the audience silent and spell bound, each story takes us into a world where a thylacine is almost within patting distance – and I'm making it sound like an extinction rant. It's nothing like that (apart from a bit at the end that isn't needed because the subtext and design have been screaming it).
Told from within a cage where the human specimens have fruit, water and dry ice, the design creates the context and two thylacine skulls say everything that needs to be said, which leaves the women free to tell their tales. With pitch-perfect performances, Sarah and Justine tell perfectly structured stories that never lose tension, are as funny as they are heartbreaking, and sound just like their characters.
With a touch of poetic lyricism, their stories are gently brought into the world of theatre and given the freedom to roam and play and imagine an ending where they can stretch out and sleep safely in front of a fire after a meal of roast possum.