Words || Cameron Colwell
Tammy and Kite
Hannah Cox and Caitlin West’s Tammy and Kite, currently showing at Erskineville Town Hall as part of a double bill with Metamorphoses, is a charming, refreshingly earnest play about the imaginary life of Kite, a young girl with a strong relationship to her sister. We watch the pair play games, tell stories, and amuse themselves with a small duck puppet named Phillip. All of this is portrayed in an accurately realised child’s bedroom, to a cleverly incorporated lighting scheme and soundtrack.
However, Tammy and Kite’s antics soon start to bore, as the light comedy of their relationship seems to be aimless and without plot. This is before the dramatic elements enter, when we see that Tammy is not the bubbly young girl she pretends to be for her younger sister, the deep, understated pain that I found compelling in the play began to show. It is hard to describe the events of the play in detail without spoiling, but soon Kite’s playtime goes from an innocent romp to at times nightmarish exploration of the adult issues that threaten to encroach on her childish view of the world.
While the play tackles dark themes, it keeps away from wallowing in melancholy by consistently pinning the story in Kite’s youthful resilience. Caitlin West’s high-energy performance never ceases in its pursuit of an authentic portrayal of a child, just as Hannah Cox manages to portray understated teenage angst. Also commendable is the use of brilliantly designed puppets, used to convey the idea of seeing the world through a child’s eyes with panache. Tammy and Kite is a reliably touching and original play, managing to speak with empathy about the restorative imagination of childhood.
The second part of the double-bill, Metamorphoses is a riotous adaptation of the fifteen books of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Beginning with a cracking, witty scene featuring a Zeus in a business shirt and his secretary as he sets out to terminate all of humanity in a giant flood (‘There’s precedent’), Metamorphoses shape-shifts across genres and moods as it tells a selection of stories from the poetry epic in brief form, each of the many roles skilfully taken on by Saro Lusty-Cavallari and Lulu Howes.
While the comedy scenes, including a particularly memorable one in which Lusty-Cavallari dons a bull onesie in order to portray the seduction of Europa, are uniformly hilarious, the dramatic pieces had a tendency to miss the mark. Often it seemed as if thin ideas had been stretched too far, although I — as well as the play in some of its best parts — recognise that the task of trying to adapt Metamorphoses into play form is a monumental one. At some points, the play relies on a cynically funny video crafted well by Christian Byers to tell the story of Rome’s founding. However, inspired moments like these come a little too few amongst scenes like the baffling one in which Actaeus’s mother, wine bottle in hand, tells the story of her son’s slaying by Diana’s hand through a repetitive kind of slam poem.
Still, at its best, Metamorphoses’s moments of brilliance are worth the price of admission. While it may falter and stumble on the way, it ultimately does transform a sprawling ancient poetic work into a play worth spending a night out on.