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Review: Duckpond at The Old 505

By Kipp Lee

Greeted at the door by an enthusiastic cast of cabin crew, the audience is ushered onto their flight, told to put their bags under their seats and prepare for take off. The crew perform the flight safety demonstration then….

It’s a beautiful day at the duck pond. Plenty of bread at the duck pond. Everybody is happy at the duck pond. Nobody sleeps at the duck pond. They only eat at the duck pond. If you’re a good duck, you can go to the Cloud.

Duckpond is more an absurd philosophical experiment than a play. It takes a magnifying glass to society and internet culture. It blends clickbait articles with plane crashes. Baking tutorials and marital bed-death. I could try to explain the plot to you but I don't think it will help. The world of the play is constantly being eroded with fourth wall breaks and ad reads. Duckpond is part Buzzfeed quiz, part existential crisis. It's the perfect millennial play, utilizing memes to portray a breakdown of society. The world bleeds out of the play and into real life and the internet ...but isn’t the internet part of real life?

Duck (Rizcel Gagawanan) insists that the duckpond is a utopia -everything you could ever want at the push of a button, but only if what you want is bread. But flight attendant, Ingrid (Melissa Hume) quickly discovers that you cannot trust anything and if you go against the will of Homer (the duckpond’s omnipresent guardian/warden/god played by Danen Engelenberg), you won't last long.

Despite not being a very traditional narrative story each of the characters feel fleshed out and gets their own fulfilling arch. They are brought to life by an excellent ensemble cast, with a strong grasp of the over-the-top physicality and an impeccable sense of comedic timing. Ingrid is brought to life by Melissa Hume in a realistic and nuanced way. Danen Engelenberg’s Homer is enigmatic, charming and manipulative. Duck, played by Rizcel Gagawanan, is almost the opposite - open, naive and optimistic. Gagawanan’s dedication to the physicality of Duck is commendable. A special mention must go to Samantha Lambert and Rudolf Hendrikx, who each play an excellent and diverse array of characters.

Director Alison Bennett has done a brilliant job of making sense of a play that feels like it keeps getting distracted by Facebook and suggested google searches. The stage design is simple and effective. The live stream elements add a comedic touch in tense moments and the lighting compliments everything. The costumes effectively guide the audience through the confusing world of Duckpond, effectively differentiating characters and their mental states.

Tegan Nicholl’s sound design is sweet and simple, using delicate motifs that distort as the world of the play crumbles, and sweet little chiptune-esque nature sounds. It is grounding and subtle, helping establish the duckpond and also strip it back.

Duckpond is a heartfelt and charming show that’ll make you hungry, horny and haha.

Duckpond is on at the Old 505 Theatre, Newtown 22-26 October at 7pm.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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