Can You Hear Colour?

Can You Hear Colour?
Patch Theatre Company. Adelaide Festival. AC Arts Main Theatre. March 9-15th, 2018

“Can you hear colour?” Michaela Burger asks the rapt audience of Adelaide mums and dads accompanied by tots through to ten year olds, who are all eager for the show to begin. And, with a little help from Girl, engagingly portrayed by Burger, along with some very clever technical effects and a magic tree (that cleverly hides lots of clever and talented magic ‘helpers’), we can hear colour, see colour and even taste colour. It is Burger’s role that cleverly links and drives the whole story.

Patch Theatre Company's new piece, conceived by Naomi Edwards and composed by Alan John, is aimed at children 4+ and their families. It is an exploration of what music is and an invitation to take time to listen and learn from those who inhabit unfamiliar worlds and to experience life in new ways. This piece weaves music and colour together as joyful partners in the human experience.

Girl’s exploration of colour is told through interactions with the Colour Catcher (played by the show’s composer, Alan John) and the Rainbow Bird, played by Bethany Hill. Hill is a standout as she joyously prances and warbles using her powerful melodic voice, hitting impossibly high notes with confidence and precision, all the time as a speechless bird. She is gloriously costumed, adding the sparkle, glitz and colour that lights up children’s eyes.

The stage and the backdrop is white, as is Girl’s simple costume, heightening the impact of the brightly coloured feathers that rain down onto the stage to different instrument sounds. Peaceful forest music plays and whilst the show’s starting pace is somewhat slow, the children in the audience are held in the palm of the performers’ hands from the outset.

Girl’s joy is short-lived as the curmudgeonly Colour Catcher, dressed all in white and speaking in convoluted sentences (that the kids in the audience both understood and delighted in), announces, “No Colour Must There Be!” It is not until later that we discover why he is so averse to colour, rainbows and the Rainbow Bird.

Ben Fleet’s lighting is also a star. Children “Ooh and Ah” as cleverly designed bottles holding the feathers light up and the stage and backdrop also light up using a rainbow of colours to both teach and entertain the audience.

The same lighting effects are used to trap and unleash colour as Girl sings about the things made up of those colours, reminding the audience that it is these things that make up the world. Exciting visual effects are implemented using the full range of colours to create shadows for the characters, creating layers of emphasis and meaning to the power and impact of colour in our lives. This is used particularly effectively in the encore.

The only reservation I had regarding effects was with the rain. It was barely audible or visible on opening night and the audience seemed only to know it was raining when Girl sheltered in the magic tree.

The Rainbow Bird is spectacular, every bird-like nuance cementing the importance of her role in the story. The highlight is the “Cheep Cheep Song”, a brilliantly constructed musical duel and duet performed by Girl and the Rainbow Bird where there is lots of comedy and their voices are well-pitched and soaring.

Can You Hear Colour? is a clever, multi-faceted show that introduces children to more complex music through story and fantasy. Fortunately, the show that, at 6pm is on when many young children are readying for dinner and bed, is also going to be offered to schools.

This world premiere is a crowd pleaser. Adults and children alike sat mesmerised for 45 minutes, caught up in the magic of creative music, excellent theatre and, of course, the rainbow of colours that light up our world.

Jude Hines

Image: Paoli Smith Creative

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