In a performance space draped with white fabric, with a giant tree in one corner and birdsong in the air, a young girl dances as she plays with brightly coloured feathers collected from the forest floor. She hears music in their colours, she assures us, as she invites us to listen for ourselves.
Her reverie is soon interrupted by a strange, shuffling character decked out in goggles and earmuffs. He’s armed with kitchen tongs, and he’s on a mission to find all the feathers and bottle them.
“No colours must be here,” he mutters. He bluntly tells the girl she’s “weird” when she dares to divulge her unique ability.
Can You Hear Colour?, conceived and directed by Naomi Edwards and composed by Alan John, is Patch Theatre’s new production and the company’s first Adelaide Festival performance. It’s the Australian premiere of this musical story for children aged four to eight years, and it’s a gorgeous affair from start to finish.
What can the girl hear? All manner of things. She sings of the blue in the bruise on your knee and the red of raspberry cordial. Her songs soon attract an exotic bird and together the new friends experiment, trilling and warbling as they investigate the colours of the rainbow.
When “colour catcher” returns, rugged up now for winter and scattering seed to tempt the bird, the girl begins to understand that he can’t stand bright colours or noise. He does, however, have a special skill of his own.
Early childhood specialists and scientists were consulted to ensure this work (the second in a suite of four) would be beneficial in developing children’s emotional intelligence. Empathy is explored as the characters connect with and gradually get to know each other, moving together towards a greater understanding of how each perceives their environment.
The many spontaneous giggles and gasps from the children in the audience were clear evidence of the show’s ability to engage and maintain attention. (My young companion’s brain was in overdrive as he theorised about what was going on.)
There’s plenty of singing and some ingenious trickery with glass bottles, and all three performers (Michaela Burger as the girl, Alan John as the colour catcher and Bethany Hill as the bird) were obviously enjoying themselves.
Can You Hear Colour? is a delightful invitation to open our hearts fully to life’s delicious possibilities and take the time to view things from the perspective of another. See it to remind yourself of the joy we can experience when we awaken our senses to the full spectrum of what the world has to offer.
Can You Hear Colour? is showing at AC Arts Main Theatre until March 15. Note: This performance will be repeated on Saturday, March 10, at 5 pm as part of the Chamber Landscapes series at UKARIA. Read more InDaily Adelaide Festival stories and reviews here.
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