Reviewer: Julie Martyn
The Cedar Rose looks like a puppet show for kids. It is. And it’s much more. It is grounded in performance for social change, or at the very least for social enquiry. The script is typical of the street theatre genre. In particular, it reminded me of the Green Party’s early street theatre efforts. This was a pre-internet technique used as they gained a foothold in Australian politics. The Cedar Rose is funny, not preachy.
So what’s it about? The two main characters, Rose Wood and Red Cedar, find themselves at the opposite ends of an ideological divide. Initially they are pitted against each other when Rose discovers Red treefelling in “her” rainforest. Later they discover a deeper connection that spans across time. The characters are finely drawn. The timing and connection between puppeteers, Rebecca Dostal as Rose and Joey Kohnke as Red, is masterful, well rehearsed. Their wood-carved puppets have faces full of character and sturdy limbs.
What could have been stereotypical was often avoided. For instance, when logger Red spoke with his boss, this was hilarious. Boss was a very gruff and cantankerous voice through a walkie talkie. Boss barks and sputters with rage. The boys are behind schedule. Time is money. Who would have thought a walkie talkie could evoke so many amused giggles from an audience?
Show don’t tell didn’t work so well earlier in the story. When various rainforest creatures were presented, this was a little too wordy. The general scene setting to Rose’s character also seemed rather prolonged. Transitions to some of the audio interludes could also be smoother, perhaps with more of an instrumental lead in? That said, the poetic intro lulled me into another world immediately. Poetry offered lyrical shifts. It punctuated the snappy dialogue, changing the pace and pointing to the overarching themes.
This performance is about values. Puppetry with a purpose. How do we use and how do we protect our world? What do we save and what does that saving consist of? What does sustainability look like? It is also funny and quirky. I enjoyed its humour. Signature quote: “Beware of falling signs”. It left me feeling a bit pensive.
The Cedar Rose is the first show designed by the Puppetarium, a collaboration of many months. Bayze Dostal looks after lighting and Tanisha Dostal created the songs. The Puppetarium also offer workshops on puppet making and puppetry performance.