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Josephine Wants to Dance

Adapted by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry, from the book by Jackie French. Music and lyrics by Phil Scott. monkey baa theatre company. Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre, Sydney. April 14 – 24, 2018

Photo : Heidrun Lohr

This delightful adaptation, by monkey baa’s Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry, entertains children and adults alike. It’s fun, lively and realises the deeper message to kids in Jackie French’s story … that if you really believe in yourself, your dreams can come true.

With music and lyrics by Phil Scott, set and costume design by James Browne and direction by Jonathan Biggins, they lift the story of Josephine, a kangaroo who yearns to dance, from the pages of French’s words and Bruce Whatley’s illustrations into a new, colourful, funny, third dimension. This is a joyful production performed by four multi-talented performers who act and dance as well as moving sets and making complex costume changes very quickly.

“At a time when we’re embracing diversity, difference and tolerance, and recognising that talent comes in all shapes and sizes, why not have a gifted kangaroo playing a dying swan? When you think about it, it makes about as much sense as a human being attempting it!”

Browne’s set, a series of triangular flats built on a series of revolves, begins in the eucalyptus bush around Shaggy Gully. Tree trunks on a cleverly lit scrim reach up to a canopy of leaves for the first scenes, then turn to become the stage of the local Arts Council hall, and turn again to become the set for Swan Lake. It’s intriguing – and very cleverly designed – as are the costumes.

The kangaroos’ costumes are based on furry, grey plush fabric. With cute plush boleros over shiny grey leotards, bouncy tails swinging behind baggy, jodhpur-style pants, and grey plush ears on head bands keeping them alert, they dance in grey Ugh Boots, as Josephine (Rebecca Hetherington) introduces herself: “I’m Josephine, I’m ten plus two …“.

Photo : Heidrun Lohr

Despite the logical entreaties of her brother, Joey (Hayden Rodgers), Josephine refuses to graze with the mob and keeps practising her dance steps. Enter the brolgas (Chloe Dallimore and Hayden Rodgers) who Browne has dressed in shiny white leotards and lots of white feathers. Their pas de deux is a clever mix of movement and innuendo, which Josephine . . .

Continue with the rest of the review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.