Storm Boy is a white man’s dreamtime story. It is a classic Australian story with all the elements of the beach we are drawn to, the testy companionship of men and boys learning to cope with adversity under the veneer of blokiness, the cycle of life and death the animal world teaches us and the silence that speaks volumes.
I met my first Storm Boy in the late seventies when the promotional team swept into town for the movie launch and I interviewed Greg Rowe on my television program. He was a perfect choice despite having no acting experience and the movie was the tear jerker of its time. The author Colin Thiele’s only instruction was that it not be made a sex comedy!
Forty years on and once again I’m entranced by the story and its realisation as a stage production by the Sydney Theatre Company and Barking Gecko Theatre Company. The sheer joy of this production is a credit to the puppetry where a whole lot of bits and pieces become the three pelicans with personalities and peckability. Created under the mastery of puppetry director Peter Wilson, remembered in Canberra as Artistic Director of Skylark, Mr Percival, Mr Ponder and Mr Proud were all manoevered brilliantly with appropriate pelican sound effects by Anthony Mayor and Phil Dean Walford.
The set is a mix of weathered grey timbers evocative of a long boat innards and the flotsam and jestsam that is the archetypal beach find, a classic row boat and a midden to link Indigenous Fingerbone Bill (Jimi Bani) to this place. The father is Hideaway Tom (Julian Garner) who played Romeo about ten years ago with Bell Shakespeare in Canberra and Storm Boy on opening night was (Kai Evans) who alternates the part with Otis Pavlovic. Both these boys have established acting CV’s
It’s a stormy opening, the stage is set and you’re in the Coorong of South Australia about to be caught up in theatre magic with this exceptional production of a memorable story, and an adorable Mr Percival, who makes you believe in that theatre magic.