Perth’s Barking Gecko Theatre Company is gearing up to present the centrepiece of its 2023 program, and it’s promising to be a feast for the heart and the mind.
The Snow, by beloved Australian/Irish playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, is about a young girl named Thea who, when her tiny village of Kishka is immersed by an epic snowfall, comes forth with an ingenious solution to find out why it has happened.
Thea and a group of the village’s bravest and boldest are assembled and put onto a giant catapult and flung over the mountain to work out why there is so much snow. Barking Gecko Artistic Director Luke Kerridge has previously described The Snow as “a Grimms’ Fairy Tale meets Monty Python,” indicating that while it’s childlike, it’s not just for kids.
“I think that’s a really great tagline for the show,” say director Adam Mitchell. “Finegan Kruckemeyer as a writer creates these amazing, whimsical landscapes. And he always populates them with a troupe of different wacky characters, and by the end of the show, you’ve kind of fallen in love with them.
“And there’s usually a little fable and certainly the snow kind of falls into that category. I suppose it’s an Eastern European aesthetic, because we’re playing with some beautiful handmade, Czech rug puppets, which are hopefully in the post and will arrive soon.
“So with the classical European telling there’s also a Monty Python kind of layer which is a really nice way of adding something zany. The story itself is a hero’s quest, really, which you don’t often see onstage. And it’s quite filmic in a way, the character of Thea who’s this little, tiny human, a child who has this wonderful idea of how to remove the snow from her village because they’ve all been snowed in.
“She and a giant called Olive basically go on this quest, this journey, to save the town, and in doing so incredible things happen and their friendship forms.”
With both the physical and fantastical elements of the story – consider the snow factor alone – Mitchell and designer Zoe Atkinson have planned a multifaceted production in terms of staging, lighting, puppetry and costuming to effectively bounce off the narrative.
“I suppose the one thing that that we can do that TV and film can’t do is play with theatricality,” Mitchell explains. “The way we’re doing that is by playing with a sense of scale.
“So we have actors as characters, but then they also have a rug puppet version of themselves. And then they have a smaller version of themselves and then a tiny version of themselves. And then they also have an animated version.
“So in every moment in the show we have this ability to tell the story in a different way, which I think in the playing of it will feel quite contemporary. Like telling a kind of ye olde tale in a very kind of contemporary way. Theatrically we travel through forests, and we build ravines and campfires, so the narrative of it is certainly larger than life.”
The Adelaide-based Kruckemeyer has also contributed to these conversations in a process that will see the piece continue to evolve right up until its performance season.
“Finnegan rewrote some sections for us specifically,” Mitchell says. “So he’s kind of been involved in the process. Then when we start rehearsals, we will continue to refine or adapt the play for us. So it feels very much a story about us and about now.”
No strangers to Barking Gecko productions, Grace Chow will perform the role of Thea with Charlotte Otton as Olive the giant. Andrea Gibbs and Isaac Diamond will play the villagers and characters such as ‘The Angry Birds’ and ‘The Tree With Attitude’.
“It’s a really wonderful cast,” enthuses Mitchell. “I couldn’t be more pleased, actually. All four of them are really great actors, but they’re fun and they’re funny people. I think that’s where the life of the show is gonna really sit – in the comedy.”
Sound designer and composer Cathie Travers will play live piano accordion on the stage, adding to the Eastern European style that Mitchell has referenced and the comedy that will also touch the audience’s collective heart.
“Thematically the heart of the show is really about how we value others who might be different, and how we see that difference as something positive,” Mitchell says.
“And the snow itself is really a metaphor for negative feelings and how to deal with those feelings. If you don’t deal with it, you get trapped and I suppose that’s what the villagers in Kishka, led by Thea, are trying to battle. That’s where the fable-type quality comes out of the comedy.”
While it’s a tale for the ages, it would seem The Snow is also a tale of contemporary times in terms of facing adversity and working out how to get past it.
“Isn’t it?” echoes Mitchell. “That’s exactly right. I think it feels very, very of the moment. In a gentle way it certainly speaks to the fact that we’re more similar than we are different, that’s for sure.”
The Snow will feature at the State Theatre Centre of WA from June 30th until July 15th. Bookings are available via www.barkinggecko.com.au.