Melbourne Festival: Masquerade

Kate Mulvany’s gorgeous adaption of Kit Williams’s picture book Masquerade celebrates why picture books and stories are so important to children and why whenever a child asks you to read them a book, you stop what you are doing and read them a book. You’ll never regret that choice.

Masquerade. Photo by Brett Boardman

At today’s post-show Q and A, Mulvany talked about how Masquerade was the distraction she needed when she was in hospital with cancer as a child. She want on to explain how when, as an adult, she finally contacted Williams, she flew to his UK home where he served her rabbit pie and gave her the rights to his book – on the condition that her story be a part of the new story.

Published in 1979, his book is about the Moon (Kate Cheel) sending Jack Hare (Nathan O’Keefe) on a quest to deliver a gold amulet to her love, the Sun (Mikelangelo, in the dazzling role he was born to play). But what made this book insanely popular is that each page is filled with riddles and clues that identify the spot where the real gold amulet was buried. It was found in the early 1980s, but possibly by accident. And the lack of amulet doesn’t make the riddles and clues any more fascinating today.

At the heart of this adaption is the story about Joe (Louis Fontain), a child with cancer, and Tessa (Helen Dalimore), his mum who needs hope  – “Mum, why do you let them do that to me?” – as she shares the book with her son. With original music by Mikelangleo and Pip Branson, performed by the ever-divine Black Sea Gentlemen, their story continues after the last page with an adventure that lets Joe and Tessa help Jack Hare to revist Penny Pockets (Zindzi Okenyo) and the book characters and learn why The Man Who Plays The Music That Makes The World Go Around (Branson) sometimes stops.

With a design by Anna Cordingly that’s inspired by the book but created for the mood and complex delight of this version, direction by Sam Strong and Lee Lewis that never lets the story drop and always keeps hope, this is the sort of theatre that promises children that theatre is wonderful and reminds grown ups that a story about love is always the right choice.

Today (Sunday) is the last day of the Melbourne Festival. It’s been amazing and I can’t think of a better way to end it than to see one of the last two performances of Masquerade.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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