Halina is the debut work from Perth-based The Open Lid Ensemble. Let me begin by saying the sense of ensemble is wonderful and it is clear throughout how much these performers enjoy sharing the stage. I can only assume they’ve had an equally enjoyable process.
Sheets and pillowcases, an ironing board and a clothesline for the backdrop surround the ‘clay creatures’ scattered about as you enter the The Laneway Lounge. Everything scattered around the stage is used throughout with careful planning; smart thinking to not have a superfluous set particularly with Fringe and its quick turnarounds.
I need to say very early on that I instantaneously drew the connection between these clay creatures, and the hyperactive Minions from Despicable Me, given their high energy and somewhat indecipherable language. Therefore, for me, Halina did not fall into physical theatre but showed more solidarity with clowning, potentially even drawing on Commedia dell’arte. Its physicality came solely from larger than life characters and use of movement to demonstrate the washing machines, irons and other household items the characters put to use. With such a demonstrative style and miming being the core use of movement it would have been nice to see how beyond this, the physical score can feed the audience on their journey.
The standout moment was the clever ensemble work in manipulating some carefully selected sheets. Without giving anything away, the clay creatures erupt with creativity to reveal to Halina how the ordinary can become the extraordinary. With some well-timed comedy and childlike fun, this makes for a genuinely lovely moment.
Amanda Watson has a hard task as Halina during her monologue. It doesn’t feel as if it quite belongs to the show, while the writing itself has its own merits. The idea is blunt and then never referenced again; it doesn’t even feel acknowledged. This for me was a moment where exploring the intent physically could have been more suitable.
I need to make a special mention of Michael Biagioni’s musical score that provided a wonderful background to this quirky world. This was utilized well throughout the work and executed strongly by the performers, enhancing the blurred line between reality and the imagination.
This show has the makings of a fine children’s piece. With some adjusting to the story, as it felt roundabout and repetitious at points, and further work to focus in on the heart of the show, Halina could have a future in primary rooms across Perth. It has the potential to highlight how growing up doesn’t necessarily mean letting go of everything enjoyable but in in fact means learning to find the joy in even the most ordinary, like hanging out the washing.