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Review: THE LIGHTHOUSE at The Queen’s Theatre, Adelaide

Review By Lisa Lanzi

Part promenade, part wonder, part science, part spectacle, all delight - welcome to The Lighthouse, an interactive theatre adventure recommended for ages 3+.

Patch Theatre Company in Adelaide have been delivering Theatre for 4-8 year old children and their families since 1972. In those years Patch has made 109 theatre works and, extraordinarily, has performed to over 1.8 million children around the world. With Artistic Director Geoff Cobham and his prodigious imagination at the helm plus a team of talented collaborators there is new heart and direction for Patch and The Lighthouse certainly lives up to expectations. Credit is due to those collaborators too for this enormous project: Michelle “Maddog" Delaney (production/making), Chris Petridis (lighting and video specialist), Meg Wilson (interdisciplinary artist - installations and events), Zoe Barry (cellist) and Jason Sweeney (sound design) and of course the cast who maintain the magic within the experience.

Adelaide’s Queen’s Theatre is the oldest theatre on the Australian mainland and offers an enormously flexible space for theatre-makers. It also has an atmosphere all its own which seems to lend to productions there a certain reverence. For The Lighthouse, the bare bones of this theatre work beautifully to allow the different action and light experiences to simply float in the spaces without extraneous detail intruding so that the whole is a dreamlike journey.

The audience is gently ushered in through the old double doors where a performer wordlessly inducts us into the culture of the work with gesture and by example. We then begin our journey through a series of installations where voice, music, gesture and spectacle engage us - adults and children alike - in otherworldly adventure and exploration. There are various levels of light and dark to contend with but the children gleefully navigate this without too much fear. Part of my delight was watching the young people react and play, notice and engage, although the adults seemed to enjoy it almost as much - we all need more wonder in our lives.

While we explore the first room with both lo-fi and more sophisticated hands on elements, a traveller/astronaut is seated in stillness until a wandering spot of light catches his and our attention. After some playful interaction we are beckoned to follow the leader. Each created ‘room’ has been set up in different ways with various actors stationed there, or entering, to lead us through the experience. There are a cluster of large, squeaky plastic ‘bubbles’ to squeeze through, which brought much giggling, not least from me. A transcendent angel-like woman hovers elevated and ‘clothed’ in a cascading ball gown of light with her more grounded helper where we are presented with tennis ball sized spheres of coloured light as they roll precisely down the exterior ‘tunnels’ on the ingenious gown.

One room contains a circular arena, an awe-inspiring hi-tech lighting rig and another mysterious, ethereal woman who greets the traveller. These two begin to communicate with each other through the use of a fine-beamed laser ‘pen’ - unfortunately I lack the vocabulary to describe this technology accurately - which hangs from above and is swung back and forth between the characters. Illustrations are made on the floor surface of the arena and other lasers and lights interplay from above. Prior to the end of The Lighthouse, we return to this room and witness the largest and highest bubble making I have ever seen! Yet another transition exists where we are gently showered with mist and light as we traverse a path while the patterns through the finest of water droplets sparkle and delight.

A different space had us playing with light as it projected and moved circles and bars on the ground. The whole room became alive with improvised choreography as we all danced with the light and played at leaping from spot to spot. Once again, observing the younger audience members reactions was priceless - some way more adventuring that others but even those that hung back a little were mesmerized.

There were voice overs that spoke of the journey of light and that which we see from distant stars being actually the past - more wonder about something we take for granted. The sound of live cello floated through the atmosphere as we wandered from room to room and Jason Sweeney’s nuanced sound design kept us company, framing each experience with sensitivity.

The subtle story accompanying the installation was not the most important or cohesive part and is open to interpretation but the whole creation is a joy to behold with a positive, uplifting and endearing sentiment that stays with you after you leave… although, it would be so much fun to do over!

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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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