Writer: Finegan Kruckemeyer
Director: Andy Packer
Reviewer: Monica Insinga
Every year the Family Season of the Dublin Theatre Festival brings us some unexpected gem, and this year is no exception. Among a number of Australian productions, which are part of the international programme of the Festival, the Ark opens its doors to Slingsby Theatre Company’s multi-award winning production of The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy, written by Finegan Kruckemeyer (the author of the immensely successful The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly) and conceived by its visionary artistic director, Andy Packer.
Blending traditional storytelling with new media, making full use of various visual, movement and circus techniques, Cheeseboy has its intended audience spellbound to their seats from start to finish. As the cast welcomes you to “an enchanting travelling theatre tent”, the audience is immediately transported into a magical dimension where, as the captivating performers—Stephen Sheehan, Samuel McMahon, Rory Walker—lead you to believe, anything is possible.
Following the adventures of Cheeseboy in search of his lost family, the show is an imaginative, enriching coming of age story that teaches life-affirming values without ever being pedantic. Instead, the kids as well as the adults are thoroughly captivated by its fresh and dynamic style.
The collaboration between all the elements needed for the production to be a success is of an impressive level. The narrator (played by the chameleon-like Sheehan) moves from chapter to chapter with ease and fluidity, in pitch-perfect coordination and timing with his “assistants” (McMahon and Walker). The technical crew composed by designer Wendy Todd, lighting designer Geoff Cobham and composer Quincy Grant, as well as new media artists Simone Mazengarb and Sophie Hyde all contribute to add depth to the show, by consistently emphasising the multiple layers of the story being told.
Last, but not least, the success of Cheeseboy—Slinsgsby’s inaugural production—since 2008 is undoubtedly due to the way Packer has brought the text to life by flawlessly coordinating all the elements of the production. Elegant in the simplicity that transpires from its rendition, Cheeseboy is theatre for children at its best.
Photo courtesy of The Ark. Runs until Tuesday 7th October 2014 at The Ark, followed by national tour. Age 8+