Benji Riggs devised this mysterious and enchanting story and composed the music to accompany and illustrate the narrative. It works very well indeed. Although written in South Australia, it has universal themes and the feeling of a well-wrought European enchanted forest tale.
The set was simple and well conceived. The characters moved effortlessly among the tall stylised trees and in front of the lighter backdrop. The Don Pyatt Hall in the Norwood Concert Hall building was a suitably intimate setting for the play.
In brief, the boy, Ewing, is lost and injured in the forest while on a hunting expedition with his father. He is saved by the fabled golden fox who takes him among the trees and meets the spirit and denizens of the woods, including the fearful creature, the Wommolly. Once reunited with his father, he shows how much he has been changed – for the better – through his magical experiences. The plot is strong and the points it makes – the power of kindness, understanding and love, among others – are clear to the young audience.
The characters were well cast. Ewing, the Boy of the title, was convincingly and sensitively played by Milla Ilic. She had credibility (and credulousness) in the role and her physicality and facial expressions were well suited to the style and purpose of the piece. She showed the way to the audience by accepting, albeit grudgingly at first, the fantasy and magic around her.
Benji Riggs was superb as the magical golden fox. Considering his considerable height and broad experience in the theatre, he could have dominated the action. He is however more skilled than that. He showed empathy with the Ewing and a decency and gentleness that drew both the boy and the audience right into his confidence.
The three supporting performers impressed in their many roles. Daisy Jury had sufficient gravitas as the spirit of the forest and brought a kindness and control to her role as mother owl, source of help and advice to the animals of the forest. Noah Magourilos had the right amount of strangeness as Mr Numm the forest fossicker, and entertained both the other characters and the audience with his banter. Sebastian Cox had understanding and strength of character as Ewing’s father, and he worked effectively with Noah in their bouncy comic routine as the baby owls.
The songs and other music supported the action and narrative effectively. Both the solos and the ensemble songs were well handled by the cast, although at times the lighter voices were overshadowed by the music. However, their characterisation, expression and movement meant that we still followed the point and purpose of the songs.
This is a wonderful local product with wider significance and appeal. Its intended audience – the 3-12 year olds – were enchanted.