Storm Boy | Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft – Michael Smith. Cover – Michael Smith, Rory Potter, Peter O’Brien and Trevor Jamieson. Photos – Brett Boardman

A long stretch of beach. A man and his son living in a humpy, keeping out of sight from the townsfolk. Nets to be mended. A wife and mother recently passed away. Three orphaned pelicans. It’s a story of grief, loneliness and the duty we have to ourselves and the people we love to let go.

Hide-Away Tom (Peter O'Brien) and his son Storm Boy (Rory Potter) have moved away from their former life and now are hiding in a shack on a beach in South Australia's Coorong. It is here that Hide-Away Tom spends his time silently carrying out the tasks of a single father and a fisherman. His son explores the island, goes treasure hunting after every storm and breaks the silence of their lives when he meets Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson) – also a lone man, an outcast – completing the human triumvirate. Before too long, Storm Boy stumbles across three orphaned baby pelicans tucks them into his woollen jumper and sets to work raising them.

Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy has long lived in the memories of Australians – both as text and as the 1976 film. In the film long languid shots of coastline, ferocious, grey sea and a long wet sandy shoreline… a small boy, spec on the horizon alone hunting for treasures… stretches of silence except for the sound of the waves, and the begging squawk of seagulls. This stage version feels like a completely new experience.

A co-production between Barking Gecko Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company has been adapted for the stage by multi award-winning playwright Tom Holloway, and directed by John Sheedy is more dialogue driven, visually it feels in close focus, the actors looking out into the sea of audience – the performances bigger, the design verging wind weathered desiccation.

Design by Michael Scott-Mitchell realised in wood and white pebbles, is, by contrast, decidedly dry. The ocean is present in the form of a subtle sound design by Kingsley Reeve, and a large wooden “wave” – ominous in its likeness to a carcass. Damien Cooper’s lighting is evocative and impressive in the storm

Three pelicans, Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival are beautifully realised by puppet designer Peter Wilson and given a freedom and playfulness by puppeteers Shaka Cook and Michael Smith. Rory Potter is both charming and believable as Storm Boy, moving from moment to moment with simple action and authenticity. Trevor Jamieson is particularly enlivening to what is overall a fairly reflective, sombre story – though the style of both Jamieson and O’Brien appeared to be somewhat broad in comparison to the nuance of the puppet pelicans and lead character Rory Potter creating an unevenness in the performance style.

A very sophisticated, philosophical and at times elegant rendering of an Australian classic which is sure to trigger a response from those who have loved, lost and felt their nest a little empty or their nets too full of holes.

Sydney Theatre Company and Barking Gecko Theatre Company present
Storm Boy
by Colin Thiele | adapted for the stage by Tom Holloway

Director John Sheedy

Venue: Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company, Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: 9 August – 8 September 2013
Tickets: $25 – $30
Bookings: 02 9250 1777 |

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