“Children deserve honesty in the stories they are told. And because life is full of infinite shades of colour, we must never reduce our stories to mere black and white.”
These words from Matt Edgerton, Artistic Director of Barking Gecko Theatre Company (BGTC), ring true in their latest production of the imaginative play, Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories. Directed by Dan Giovannoni and Luke Kerridge, this world premiere captures the potency of the artistic mind, and the resilience of the human spirit when tested in life’s darkest moments. The play tells of a lonesome, passionate writer named Bambert who finds friendship in the characters of his stories. He shelters himself in the attic above Mr. Bloom’s grocery store, as Bambert finds no need to venture into the outside world. However, we join his tale at the moment he begins to question the authenticity of his stories that have no factual place in the world.
The warmly-lit, intimate set and whimsical music enlightened the audience’s senses as they filled the theatre, successfully stirring curious whispers about what the German story held in store. Translated from Bamberts Buch der verschollenen Geschichten by author Reinhardt Jung, it is safe to say after I searched for the original novel in all of Perth City’s book stores and libraries without success, many of us in the room did not know what to expect. The company is well-recognised for its tasteful stage adaptations of admirable children’s stories that resonate with people of all ages. They never condescendingly filter the gravity of emotions written in compelling tales.
Interweaving the art of inventive puppetry and acting, the work faultlessly balanced humorous and contemplative scenes that well-align with BGTC’s exceptional run of adaptations, including Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree or The Rabbits.
What is especially unique about Bambert’s stage adaptation, is that it incorporates the ‘Banraku’ style puppet. An ancient form of puppetry originating from Japan, it involves three individuals manipulating the puppet. The main puppeteer, Tim Watts, instils endearing and expressive life into little Bambert, with every miniature growl and yelp. Amongst the casts’ numerous character changes, they facilitate the puppet’s movements seamlessly. Emerging in and around the elaborate set, their performance truly brought a liveliness to Bambert’s multi-dimensional characters.
Admittedly, as each ‘lost story’ unfolded, I felt emotionally unprepared for the stories of heightened tragedy towards the closing of Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories. Tears were shed, but my heart was warmed by the evocative performance that will shape the young audiences’ understanding of historical misfortunes. For in turn, it emphasises the importance of a future that hails the greatness of creativity. This is self-evident in the artistry involved in making the original novel by Reinhardt Jung a tangible and thrilling performance.
Words by Gabriella Loo
Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories runs at the State Theatre Centre until 23 April.