the indirect object @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)
9:30pm, Sat 14 Mar 2009
Oooooh – this was a bit different.
nightlight portrays the last days of a young teenager, incurably sick and restricted to a hospital bed. His mother is distraught, smothering him with desperate and guilt-ridden affection, whilst the rest of his family and friends are physically – and emotionally – absent. Every so often, the performance is punctuated by dream sequences, colourful and crazy and vivid. And then the child dies, and there’s a touching closing scene where his heart is exposed for all to see, to demonstrate the love he had for those around him that they didn’t care to acknowledge.
It’s not that cheery when I type it out like that, really. Not really family fodder. Which makes the fact that it’s a puppet show all the more surprising; not because of the technical excellence in the production, but because of the maturity involved in the storytelling. Only occasionally does it delve into the well of whimsy, and there’s so much… respect shown to the characters that it takes a real effort to recognise them as puppets.
Because those puppets, those marionettes… those eyes… I can’t recall eyes as deep in something inanimate. The eyes give the characters a life of their own, whether it’s the pleading eyes of the mother, the sultry eyes of the slinky nurse, or Josh’s eyes, innocent and frightened and – dare I say it – excited when he’s freed from the confines of his bed in dreams.
Supported by clever sets and emotive puppeteers, nightlight is a brilliantly conceived puppet show… that much is obvious. But the respect and sensitivity and maturity imbued in the storytelling aspect of this performance elevates it beyond just a technical achievement.