Musical theatre / “The Owl and the Pussycat” directed by Bridget Boyle. At The Q until June 25. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA.
“THE Owl and the Pussycat” has always been one of my very favourite poems, but I never thought I’d see it as an opera.
This touring production of composer Lisa Cheney and writer/librettist Kathryn Marquet’s interactive operatic play based on Edwards Lear’s nonsense poem answered all the questions we’ve never asked.
Where do you buy a pea-green boat? How do even the most devoted of lovers cope with the boredom of a year-and-a-day sailing trip? What do you do with honey and plenty of money? And what of the fact that pussycats don’t like water?
Marquet, who wrote specifically for children 4-10 years, has come up with some imaginative answers to the questions and a backstory explaining why the Owl and the Pussycat ran away in the first place.
In the case of Pussycat, played by Laura Coutts, it was because of a grumbling old father kitty demanding his nightly sardine dinners while not understanding her new-age friendship with a bird.
And Owl, played by Natasha Veselinovic, is brave but sensitive, but feels like a social isolate, as an early aria shows.
Cheney’s music was accessible and gently tuneful, with a show-stopper in the Bear’s Honey aria and a charming duet, “‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”, by the two central characters.
Happily, in a nod to Lear’s words, Owl did get to sing, to a small guitar, "O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love, what a beautiful Pussy you are”.
Presiding over the whole adventure was tenor Jackson MacGovern, who played the moon, father-cat, honey-drunk bear, piggy-wig and the turkey who presides over the marriage, adopting different voices and animated characterisations which delighted the young audience members. And he performed the best Welcome To Country I’ve seen in a long time.
A highlight was the scene where the famished Owl and Pussycat chase a pair of resourceful puppet rats (manipulated by MacGovern) around the stage before making the pragmatic decision not to eat them.
Staged in in the refurbished Bicentennial Hall on a pea-green set designed by Penny Challen, this production by Bridget Boyle is a scaled-down version of the original Brisbane show, which involved an ensemble of instrumentalists.
This version featured a single keyboard player, Brendan Murtagh, dressed up as a puffin, who occasionally entered the action, and the simplicity of this arrangement led to a degree of intimacy, even in the big hall, as the children shouted out to the characters: “Look behind you”.
Several times in night time scenes, the auditorium was lit up with “stars” as children and their adults made twinkling hand movements, hoisted the sail on the boat, and joined into the Turkey’s ritual nuptial intonations.
Children, parents, grandparents and this reviewer had a thoroughly good time of it as the lights fell on the happy Bong Tree Island wedding scene.
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