Death is dealt with differently by children than by adults and it is difficult to remember how we thought of death – if we thought of it at all – when we were young. I suspect it was an elusive fear, a vague sense of “not-being”, whatever that may have meant. We are told at the beginning of this play that one of the characters (Tammy) is dead and this is about getting to know her.
Tammy & Kite, a collaborative effort by Hannah Cox and Caitlin West, strives to explore the impact of the increasing sickness and ultimate death of an older sibling Tammy ( Hannah Cox) on a nine-year old Kite (Caitlin West). Death here is a green monster under the bed, a huge forest bear that devours you by consuming all your energy. These images are beautifully evoked by the lighting of Benjamin Brock and the soundscape of Alexis Weaver .
The bear itself appears towards the end of the play. It is a magnificently constructed puppet head. How powerful it would have been if we had a third player, wearing the head and lurking, always lurking in shadowy edges of the bedroom; an ever present sense of foreboding tainting the memories of Kite. For this sense of unease is what is lacking, the threat to love is spoken of but not fully realised.
Playing a child is not easy. As adults, our bodies are differently proportioned and our perspective of the space in which we move is more inhibited. Cox and West both achieved some of the loose-limbed physicality of childhood, the abandonment to space that is part of childhood. Much is made of the energy-sapping beast that lurks and it is always a challenge to play someone dying of a debilitating disease; the slow loss of energy and the enormous effort to lift arms, to stand, to place one foot in front of the other. At times, Cox’ energy was too healthy and her descent into pain and listlessness too sudden and inconsistent. It is this attention to physical detail which fully engages an audience.
There is an increasing trend in contemporary theatre to use the technique of a monologue to tell the story rather than to explore a character’s dilemma or feelings. It has become a shortcut , by-passing meaningful, engaging scene work. Importantly, in theatre, practitioners need to trust the audience to go on a theatrical journey with them. “Show, don’t tell”, is the old theatrical adage. Trust us to want to understand the experience; begin with a little mystery and allow the story to unfold.
I did not see the original Fringe production and Cox and West credit director Olivia Satchell with giving the piece more breadth and depth in this version. I would love to see Satchell develop her ideas further and help shape the script into a very profound piece – the elements are all there. Kudos to the duo and their team for attempting to go where few people are brave enough to venture. Death and childhood are uneasy topics in our society and this piece fearlessly engages with the issue.
Kate Stratford – Theatre Now
23 – 28 October 2017
WED – SAT: 7:00 PM / SAT MAT:2:00 PM
Theatre Company: Montague Basement
Kite was nine years old when Tammy died. Tammy was fourteen, and Kite’s big sister.
She was really great. Kite would love you to meet her. How does a child cope when they lose the person they love the most? Using humour, sensitivity and puppets, Tammy & Kite explores how imagination, memory and play can allow young people to express emotions that adults often struggle to put into words.
Back by popular demand after its debut season at the Sydney Fringe 2016.
Devised and Performed by Hannah Cox and Caitlin West
Directed by Olivia Satchell
Produced by Imogen Gardam
Sound Design by Josephine Gibson and Alexis Weaver
Lighting Design by Benjamin Brockman
Stage Manager Eleni Schumacher
Artwork by Hannah Cox