Thursday, May 31, 2012


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Cloudstreet is a contemporary drama adapted by Nick Enright from Tim Winton’s popular novel of the same name. Set pre and during WWII, the story explores the lives of two families, the Pickles and the Lambs, who share an old, dilapidated house in Perth during World War Two. No. 1 Cloud Street brings the two families together.

Cloudstreet examines the lives of ordinary people through extraordinary events; the play serves as an examination of Perth in the aftermath of the WWII, and the events in Perth represent post-war Australia. The play deals with the themes such as family, rites of passage, pain of growing up and the confusion of failing in love for the first time. Other issues explored include the role of women, gambling. Many parallels can be drawn from society at that time to society today.

The Lambs family has a retarded son, Fish. He was trapped in a fishing-net on a family picnic, drowned then came back to life. Unfortunately, as his brother Quick saw almost immediately, not all of him came back, leaving Fish retarded and touched by a longing for the Big Country he glimpsed beyond the water.

The Pickles believe in luck, and hopes for their lucky star. Sam Pickles is an addicted gambler while his wife Dolly is a sexually promiscuous alcoholic. Rose, their only child, is left to fend for herself and bring up both her parents.

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This odd mix of characters provides for surprise and sorrow throughout the play. Through three generations the audience is encouraged to empathise with them; the house breathes and changes with them. And at the conclusion, the Pickles and the Lambs stick together and ultimately fight for their own dreams. The protagonists in Cloudstreet are Rose Pickles and Fish Lamb.

Cloudstreet contains a range of non-naturalistic theatrical conventions and relies heavily on abstract elements, for example object transformations and lots of symbolism. The symbolism of the river and its role as a place where important events in the novel occur is also discussed.

The character of Fish Lamb was played extremely convincingly. The actor accurately portrayed the mentality and actions of a retarded child. Fish came across as an honest and gentle person genuinely needing care. The actor captured the loss, the pain and exasperation (sometimes) of a mentally retarded child. His dialogue was very appropriate, for instance asking seemingly pointless questions, like “I want to go back to the sea…the sea.”

Dolly was a hilarious character. The actor’s use of voice was good; she portrayed an alcoholic sex-ed up older-woman really well. Her dramatic makeup, extravagant dresses showed her personality. Dolly seems to have no boundaries when socialising with other characters, she seems to lose her sense of self-consciousness and does things on impulse. The actor used many gestures when she spoke. However, Dolly’s eagerness to engage in sexual activities was inappropriate for the young audience.

The costume was excellent; it set the atmosphere of the performance, and made it clear that the play is set in 150’s, and through costume changes, the audience realises that time flows on. Dolly’s sleazy dress indicates to the audience her personality was likewise; while Rose’s boyfriend’s business suit gave the audience clues to his personality.

Lighting was effective in creating the mood. The audience could tell from the bright lighting that things will turn out for the best. For example clouds silhouetted on the blue background enhanced the feeling of “hoping for a brighter future”.

The audience is required to imagine the setting of the house through gestures and dialogue. With minimal props consisting of a floor of sand with planks on top and a boat on the side, the audience has total concentration on the action on stage. Sparse, open spaces create a feeling of isolation and apprehension. And again reinforces our understanding of Fish and Rose’s desperation as their family support structure deteriorates.

I thought Cloudstreet was entertaining, and highly original. Cloudstreet is a play that requires a high level of understanding to fully appreciate it. The set design was ingenuous; it created suspense as to where the plot will take us next. The acting was outstanding; I especially admired the actors who played Fish and Dolly. The scene changes were very smooth, so there was no waiting time in between. The play was easy to follow, the dialogue was clear.The only fault is that Cloudstreet dragged on for too long; that made me lose patience. Overall, the cast pulled off a very dramatic and joyous play.

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