19 October 2018

Melbourne Festival: A Ghost in My Suitcase

A Ghost in My Suitcase
Barking Gecko Theatre
18 October 2018
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 21 October

"A Ghost in My Suitcase". Barking Gecko Theatre

I've worked in the arts for ever because in the 1970 and 80s, my family took me to shows at festivals in Adelaide; some weren't for kids. There's been some wonderful shows and experiences that kids and enjoy with their grown ups this festival – the Lexicon circus, Fire Gardens or the delightfully creepy (and affordable) 1000 Doors – with the highlight being the premiere of Barking Gecko's A Ghost in My Suitcase.

The Perth based company make exquisite theatre for children that never excludes adults. One of my favourite shows last year was their Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories at Arts Centre Melbourne and I loved The Rabbits at MIAF 2015.

Playwright Vanessa Bates adapted Gabrielle Wang's novel, which won the 2009 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Novel.

Celeste (Alice Keohavong) is 12 and arrives at the Shanghai airport where she's met by Por Por (Amanda Ma), her mother's mother. Celeste's mum has recently died and Celeste has left her little brother and French dad in Australia to take for mum's ashes back to the Isle of Clouds in China where her mum was born. Things don't go well when she meets Ting Ting (Yilin Kong), her grandmother's adopted daughter, but that's not as weird as finding out that Por Por is a ghost catcher. Or that Celeste might have the same ghost catching skills that are passed down maternal lines and that she'll need them when they go back to the family home.

The combination of projection – from the crowds of Shanghai to a boat ride through a rural village – puppetry (design, Zoe Atkinson; lighting, Matthew Marshall), live action and martial arts brings the story to life in a recognisable world where fantasy and the super natural feel natural and real.

Co-directors Ching Ching Ho and Barking Gecko's Artistic Director Matt Edgerton always find the heart of the story and its characters and make sure that the story of grief and letting go leads even when there are angry ghosts to fight and lives are in danger. It’s a little bit scary but so full of love and loving characters that the scary is fun.

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