Attention Seeker Productions @ Bakehouse Theatre – Studio
7:30pm, Tue 22 Feb 2011
In a way, Rocket Boy (often confused in conversation this Fringe with Rocket Town – sorry Dee!) feels like the polar opposite of the previous show in the same venue: where Womb Division was a confronting mix of brutality and absurdity, Rocket Boy takes a curious premise and creates a warm, heartfelt, and personal production – but almost overcooks itself in the process.
Ten-year-old Jessica is a new girl in a new town; shattered families are the norm in this world. Escaping from her home and exploring her cul-de-sac, she becomes innocently fascinated by the Lieutenant – a similarly-aged boy who is building a rocket in his back yard. His motivation for building the spacecraft (out of household junk “found” in neighbour’s yards) is also the need for escape; despite his almost laser-like focus on the construction of the vehicle, Jessica’s flurry of questions inadvertently reveal a common ground between them. As a pompous and pipe-wielding Narrator keeps the audience up-to-date on the character’s internal monologues, the conversationally blunt Lieutenant blunders his way into emotional congress with the resolute Jessica; by the time the Christmas lights have been added to his space craft awaiting lift-off, the bond between the children has become tangibly close, and almost unbearably delicate.
A relatively young adult cast is used to play the pre-teens, though Andrew Jackson’s Narrator has a more mature presence, with deliciously deep tones accompanying his (occasionally perversely suggestive) description of proceedings. Lauren Farquhar’s Ivy, Jessica’s best friend from another town, provides the bulk of the comic relief, with her selective relationship advice (inexpertly translated from the pages of Dolly) perfectly delivered with naïve focus.
Unfortunately, the two principles – Kaitlyn Mahoney and Julian Webster – are almost too good in their roles, with the immediately charming sense of familiarity drowned by an overdose of sentimentality and whimsy. Their performances are fine – but at times there’s too much emotional treacle to wade through. And in the end, despite the overall polish to the production, Rocket Boy really left me feeling a bit conflicted – tickled by nostalgia for childhood innocence and playful exploration, but somewhat pained by the overload of twee.