Thursday, June 15, 2023

When We Were Wild – a brooding story about friendship, loss and renewal with amazing animal puppetry (Cahoots at The MAC until Sunday 18 June)

Primary school age audiences are remarkably sophisticated. They can associate an actor appearing on stage to give voice to a no longer visible animal puppet that previously entranced them. They can follow a plot that jumps back and forwards in time. They are very attuned to mood cues, whether triggered by changes of light, soundscape or characters’ mannerisms. And when they enjoy something or connect with it, they cannot hold the excitement inside them, giving way to little cries of “Goodbye Owl. Goodbye Fox. Goodbye Badger.” at one point in Cahoots’ new work, When We Were Wild.

It’s a story about friendship, loss, holding secrets, rescue from entrapment, and recapturing what was once good. About brothers Jim and Pete growing up on a farm. Camping out under the stars. Being aware of animals watching them. Watching the majestic behaviour of the creatures around them. And not overlooking the moments when the animal kingdom feeds off itself.

When We Were Wild sits at the darker end of the spectrum of work produced by Cahoots. It’s full of wonder and physical effects, but the mood is subdued. There’s little room for celebration as the two siblings grow apart. When the family home is at risk, can a long-held secret become the impetus for their renewal?

Charles Way’s script drives the rapid back-and-forth conversation style of the two brothers. Jim is played by Ruairi Conaghan, a hands-on man whose heart is close to the earth, a year or so older than Pete (John Paul Connolly) whose passions lie in more artistic pursuits. In front of a curved backdrop with concealed doors sits a circle of bark, the stage for the action, and an upright piano, played by the composer Kyron Bourke, concealing its own secrets.

The brothers remember youthful escapades and we’re introduced to some of the animals on the farm and in the wood. Helen Foan thrillingly brings her original puppet creations to life – large and very small – with Iris Schmid. The attention to detail in both the materials and more importantly the movements brought tears to my eyes at times, with the sheer quality of the performances and the interaction with the other actors. The little ducklings on their own are worth a trip to see this show!

There’s a lot going on in When We Were Wild. Two brothers searching for belonging. A whole brood of animals. Live piano and Score Draw Music’s soundscape. Despite the show’s title, the final apt vision of rewilding still caught me from left field, though maybe I missed the foreshadowing. Bonus points to Cahoots for continuing to provide Kyron Bourke with effects-filled pianos to play.

When We Were Wild is an imaginative production that will thrill young (and not so young) audiences with beautiful puppeteering and an indoor exploration of the great outdoors. It takes a measure of confidence and nerve on the part of the producers and director Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney to run with their vision, but they definitely pull it off by neither talking down to the intended audience (age 6+) nor unnecessarily mollifying the painful reality of life. You can catch the 50-minute performance at The MAC until Sunday 18 June.


Photo credit: Gorgeous Photography/Melissa Gordon

Enjoyed this review? Why not click on the Buy Me a Tea button!

No comments: