Theatre Review: Tammy & Kite (Sydney Fringe Festival, until 17th September)

Montague Basement’s Tammy & Kite is something just a little bit special, and a must-see in this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival line-up.

This delightful, playful new creation introduces us to sisters Tammy and Kite (and the super-cute Philip the Duck). Through their play, we learn they are best friends, share a love of fart jokes and toilet humour, and are facing up to the very real emotions of grief and loss. In less than an hour, we are treated to a sensitive and genuine experience that speaks to adults and children alike.

The intimate play space created inside the Erskineville Town Hall is perfect for a play staged entirely in a child’s bedroom. Every element of the set has been deliberately thought out, from the childish family portraits to the scattered Lego the audience has to step over as they enter. Despite the audience sitting in such close proximity on three sides of the stage, you feel completely transported into Tammy and Kite’s world.

tammy-and-kite-5085The immersive feeling is aided by the lighting design, by Saro Lusty-Cavallari, which makes great use of full wash colour. It is especially impressive due to the limitations of a makeshift rig, perched on top of a temporary stage structure.

When playing children (be it a teenager like Tammy or primary school-aged Kite), some actors tend towards hammy caricature. Not so Hannah Cox (Tammy) and Caitlin West (Kite), who co-created the work with Producer, Imogen Gardam. Their performances are natural, no doubt built through astute observation of real children at play. Cox and West have a genuine rapport, and the dialogue has an authenticity and spontaneity of the sort usually confined to the rehearsal space.

Embracing the youthful paradigm, the show also makes use of puppetry, designed and created by Hannah Cox. In Philip the Duck we see the kind of cute humour that is so often used by Disney cartoons – the goofy animal sidekick whose love for the main character knows no bounds. Philip acts as a circuit breaker for the increasingly intense scenes playing out between the sisters. Like the other props, such as a set of interrupting light sabres, the puppetry design is bang on. If this is not a core focus for Cox, it should be.

tammy-and-kite-5003Accompanying the action and driving the narrative forward is the soundscape, constructed by Josephine Gibson and Alexis Weaver. It is an integral part of the work, but does not feel obtrusive. Rather we are given the sense of a song that we can’t quite get out of our head, that rises and falls in volume depending on our focus. It is striking work.

Tammy & Kite is a creative collaboration with genuine heart. It definitely deserves the attention of parents, educators and theatre practitioners alike. Montague Basement have tackled a difficult subject mindfully and imaginatively – it is a credit to all involved.

Part of the Sydney Fringe Festival line-up, Tammy & Kite is playing at the Erskineville Town Hall until 17th September.

For tickets, go here.

Photo credit Zaina Ahmed