Writer: Ava Wong Davies
Director: Jessica Rose McVay
Multiple choices, basement taverns, dragons, secret endings and malicious and festering darkness, Rime of the Second Sister takes the adventure dynamics of ‘Choose Your Own’ to heart as sisters Riley and Eliza continue to fill their summer days with a determined sense of whimsy with no inhibitions or boundaries. Well, that’s not strictly true. There is one thing not to ask.
To divulge the true nature of the story would remove the essence of Rime of the Second Sister, but rather be said that the metaphorical imagery stands toe-to-toe with children’s literature at its finest. And as listeners surrender their own inhibitions and lunge down the rabbit hole, Ava Wong Davies’ writing begins to distort and elaborate into a more diverse and profound sense of language. At no point does it trivialise the emotions involved with these girls lives and experiences, and directs respectful communication with audiences, young and old.
The production places a remarkable wealth of detail, performance, and investment into proposed inconsequential characters and side adventures. Multi-layered, an equal level of the narrative is told through Laura Frances Heitzman’s colourful illustrations’ illuminating vibrance. Static, the picture-book design of the graphics encourages listeners to appreciate the value of the spoken word rather than any animations.
In shifting the dynamic, the attitudes and maturity of the two girls evolve throughout the surprisingly lengthy production. Jessica Rose McVay’s direction evokes a degree of dimension within the core characters as Eliza and Riley shift perspectives, trading off their anxieties and responsibilities further into the tales they delve into. It makes for a remarkably touching story beneath the surface, of what appears at first as two young girls protecting one another and their absent ‘maiden’.
Alice Vilanculo, Witney White, Martina Laird, and Sky Yang perform an absolute stonker of emotional highs and plummets across the adventure as sisters Riley, Eliza, the neighbour/witch or the various other creatures and encounterable cast members. The conviction in performance is tangible, even without the presence of visual confirmation, allowing the relationships to blossom, taint, and convey an authentic sense of connection.
Often in the conclusion of these branching narratives, one venture is enough – but not so here, the grasping determination to unravel more of the story pushes listeners to loop once more to the start. This is evidently, the intention, given the tight way in which the ending of certain accounts loops precisely into the opening once more.
And what a ferocious set of sounds to quiver beneath – Tony Gayle does a spectacular job with audio designs, cementing the immersive nature of the storytelling. From engulfing flames and rumbles of giant beating wings to a more disturbing squelch of inner turmoil and anguish. To communicate such diverse and intense emotional trauma and struggles with sound is a remarkable feat.
Depending upon the listener’s choices, the depths to which Rime of the Second Sister instils a profoundly intimate depiction of depression is inspirational for younger audiences. 45North challenges a growing insularity across the world – not only on physical plains but the ignorant closing of our minds and attitudes. Rime of the Second Sister enables audiences to take autonomy in their exploration of family dynamics and the value of sisterhood, especially in the face of judgement, depression, and anxieties.