12 July 2017

Guest review: Pisca

Melbourne Cabaret Festival
2 July 2017
Chapel Off Chapelmelbournecabaret.com
to 2 July

Guest reviewer: Jack Beeby


Cameron Taylor is Pisca, a hapless gosling with a golden voice who has been charming the pants off Chapel Off Chapel as part of this year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival shows in development series.

Pisca is the whimsical tale of a freshly hatched baby bird (Taylor) who, suddenly finding themself alone and must navigate a brand new and unfamiliar world. On their adventures, they discover the strange world of night time, revel in the colourful brilliance of spring, learn to fend for and feed themself, attempt (with varying success) to make friends, and evade the persistent looming threat of an unseen hunter.

Though Pisca is largely mute, save for an occasional plaintive quack, at the turn of a beat they croon and warble their way through a thoughtful selection of pop songs and jazz standards that lend a contemporary relatability to the narrative.

The relatively straightforward plot is nicely embellished with a few well-chosen and wittily executed side narratives, including the backstory of Pisca’s ill-fated parents (told through some less-than-conventional sock puppetry) and Pisca’s very physical encounter with a mightily formidable drop of water.

Stripped of spoken text, Taylor’s use of clowning and physical comedy is well crafted and captivating to behold. Their talent for conveying story without verbal language is strong and Pisca’s central character quickly impresses on the audience and proves to be heart-wrenchingly endearing.

Throughout the show, Taylor extends a number of gentle invitations for audience participation, from warbling a rendition of The Beatles’s "Black Bird", from the seating bank in pitch darkness, to literally fishing an audience member from the crowd and preparing them to be cooked and eaten.

The show’s design (also by Taylor) situates us in the simplistically evocative and playful world of storybook nostalgia. The set pieces – a nest, a tree and an awful lot of flowers – are largely used as conceptual signposts, and most of the actual world building is done through Taylor’s thoughtful gesture and clever lighting.

Almost every element is perfectly blended to create a whimsical world of simplistic beauty and charm. Taylor’s command and subversion of theatrical convention, along with the creation of a character that I’m sure will prove timelessly endearing, make Pisca a gorgeously entertaining show.

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