You and Me and the Space Between – Sydney Festival

Good children’s stories usually have deeper meaning beneath the surface. Often our favourite childhood tales contain messages for bigger issues. The Harry Potter series is about learning to cope with death. The Lorax teaches kids about climate change and the environment. Roald Dahl’s catalogue nstruct on the importance of kindness, education and believing in yourself.

You and Me and the Space Between, a theatrical story-book that is simultaneously narrated and created before audience eyes, tries its best to join the litany of children’s stories with allegorical significance. However, while some stories thrive in the singularity of their chosen messages, this show suffers from trying to cram too many social issues into its core. Nevertheless it captures the joy of live storytelling and is sure to evoke childhood nostalgia for the adults in the audience.

You and Me and the Space Between

Raelee Hill narrates from the point of view of a young, red-headed girl living on a small island called the Proud Circle.

When the Proud Circle starts to sink, its citizens are forced to row to a bigger island for shelter. Both sides’ initial curiosity about each other soon turns to fear of the unknown. Throw in some refugee imagery, and soon we’ve covered climate change, xenophobia, the nature of democracy and the importance of open-mindedness.

This muddled mix of messages crowd the story. Kruckemeyer could have focussed on a couple of social issues. Instead, he overwhelms the audience and prevents any one idea from sticking in their mind.

Writer Finegan Kruckemeyer’s story is rife with simple, evocative descriptions. It is brought to life by Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist Cathy Wilcox, who draws the book’s pages live on a projected screen, with 3D effects by puppeteer Felicity Horsley.

Hill’s narration is a constant delight: she captures the tone of a young girl without infantilising her too much. Dean Stevenson, who also composes and performs the music, adds welcome variety to the character voices.

If you are looking for a family show at the Sydney Festival, You and Me and the Space Between is a solid choice. It’s not a perfect piece, but the story, performances and visuals are sure to please any book-loving child.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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