Children’s author Shaun Tan’s work has leapt off the pages in many different forms, including orchestral recitals, an Oscar-winning animated film, a concept album, and even an opera. The most recent adaptation is a wonderful puppet based on the award-winning CICADA picture book.
The titular cicada strikes a recognizable figure, and many adults in the audience immediately tune into it, as it shows that she is good at her job and diligent. When it first appears, it’s not just adults who bristle with excitement; children in the audience are immediately drawn to his cuteness, a little green head that comes to life in the hands of puppeteer/co-creator/actor Tim Watts. Watts is joined on stage by co-creator Arielle Gray, and between the two (although little Cicada easily maintains herself as another character despite joining Watts) of them, they create all the movement, action and scenes throughout the show. .
The show lasts about an hour, and yet the entire audience is drawn in and held firmly for the entire time. There are grateful smiles from the adults and whispers and chatter from the children as the cicada goes through its life living “underground”, although this basement is the ground floor of the building. an office building rather than the literal basement where the cicadas wait, some up to 17 years old. Indeed, the children in the audience are as focused for the cicadas’ first appearance as for their last, with the action and story development providing enough energy to absorb the entire audience. This is one of CICADA’s strengths, and the creative team should be applauded for it. Despite hardly any dialogue, the action, setting, and characters vary enough and add enough to the rich story that makes for an engrossing show, despite the fairly simple premise.
The show is based on the award-winning book by multi-award-winning author Shaun Tan. Adapter and director Luke Kerridge stumbled upon the show’s concept at the State Library – a stone’s throw from the Studio Underground where the show is staged – where he found a treasure trove of illustrations, models and paintings that l ‘took us on a journey through Tan’s book-making process. The result is a truly spectacular play that captivates audiences – young and old – and takes them on a spectacular journey that has an equally spectacular ending.
Jonathon Jie Hong Yang’s music is a wonderful accompaniment to the action, complementing each scene without overwhelming it. Chloe Oglivie’s lighting is something to behold, with scenes and settings changed fundamentally with a simple change of lighting. The use of lights to illustrate a journey through the office building catacombs is something to strive for. Amalia Lambert does an exceptional job with the props, adding to the rich tapestry of the story.
CICADA is a school holiday treat for the whole family, and it’s no surprise to see Perth’s season nearly sold out. After its run in Perth, the show takes off for a statewide tour to spread the joy.
CICADA is at Studio Underground at the State Theater Center through August 6, with weekend and matinee shows available. Tickets are limited, with a new performance on August 6. The show will then head to Kwinana, Mandurah, Harvey, Geraldton and Broome. Tickets and more information from the State Theater Center.
Images thanks to Mac1 Photography