‘The Warrior and the Princess’ this brave new collaboration between Monica Main and Shirley Van Sanden is a Blue Room Theatre and Blue Moose presentation. When writing, Shirley has often tackled difficult subjects, made them palatable and filled with interest.
This unusual play points out the dangers of stereotyping people of one religion or nationality. This play is being performed at 8.30 nightly in the Blue Room Theatre, 53 James Street, Northbridge until Saturday 20th October. The performances are 70 minutes.
It is 1944 in a Second World War internment camp. A detainee shivers in the freezing damp conditions. A small bird is singing on the barbed wire. The prisoner catches the tiny creature with the idea of eating it, but this man, no matter how bleak his life just cannot do this to such a happy and delicate being.
We then travel back to 1939; the Nazis have just invaded Poland. A Jewess has just seen her little girl off to school when she is beaten to death. The child, Anna (Rhoda Lopez) is later collected by her puppet theatre owning, Uncle Jakub (Ian Toyne). He rushes her home to pack, as they prepare to flee the area. With suitcases in hand, they head over the hills towards Lithuania.
In a Lithuanian immigration office is the Japanese Deputy Consul, Kiyoshi (Brian Liau) talking to the Dutch Consul, Van Buren (Ian Toyne), who is helping his compatriots to escape the impending human disaster. Although Kiyoshi is a qualified Samurai, after having lived in America, he has a great interest in Western life and sport and has flashbacks to his youth.
Eventually Anna and her uncle reach her Aunt Wanda’s (Monica Main) house in Lithuania. Could the celebratory Hanukkah meal be the start of a new life for the family? Who will their unlikely saviour be?
This sad story could just as easily relate to Libya today. 75 years later and the world has not moved on. This tale could have been more of the ‘same old story’, but talented writer Shirley Van Sanden has interwoven several fascinating story threads. There is the tragic background tale based on true events, with several well-observed characters and plenty of humour to give whole performance a sparkle.
The actors had to play several characters, often with different accents, age and character but despite the fast pace the whole performance flowed beautifully. There is a particularly fine and touching performance by Rhoda as the young girl, struck dumb by the trauma. We have all experienced the ‘grey men’ as Princess Di called them, the faceless men who control life and yet have not the courage to face the world themselves. Kiyoshi’s faceless men were made into puppets, thus emphasising their impersonal attitude.
The puppets ranged from a small bird on a stick, to an elaborate, smoking Japanese General requiring two operators. There is also a delightful puppet act with a white dog, which came to life convincingly. The puppeteers, trained by Sandy McKendrick of the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, consisted of the cast and Shirley Van Sanden who was mainly involved with the technical side.
Marty Laing, who played an electric piano, supplied the live music; this allowed a very fine subtly and permitted a reminder of the beautiful music from the period – with a few bars of ‘Sukiyaki’ thrown in. It is some time since I have seen a pianist who was happy to take a back seat, Marty was content to accompany appropriately and not rule the stage. Joe Lui’s excellent lighting (operated by Lisa McCready) gave the final quality touch.
The set consisted of three authentic, Japanese, paper wall panels that also allowed for the crisp projection of numerous drawings and effects to be shown (graphics - Alex Manfrin). There were live shadowgraphs of the unsavoury parts of the story.
Under the directorship of Monica Main, the performance is slick, exciting and fascinating. The blending of the genres worked superbly. This is not a gruesome tale, but one that will be understood and enjoyed by children from 12 upwards.
A bold and brash musical – with big hearts and beehives – will make Limelight Theatre’s stage come alive this June.