We enter this performance full of promise of something amazing because, simply put, Little Ones Theatre are the best independent theatre makers kicking around Melbourne right now. Though, sadly, it does not take long for us to realize that our hopes for an amazing theatrical experience will be left somewhat dashed. For here they have taken the work of one of history’s greatest writers and left Wilde’s words bastardized and confused.
In wanting to present a queering of a classic they have stopped midway and, unfortunately, only delivered us stereotypes which are just plain boring or, it could even be said, are just a little annoying. This sentiment is perhaps no better personified than the bitchy queen they have concocted into the role of the rose and, more confusingly, as the love interest of our female heroine. And here, where our heroine is, of course, a young woman, bereft and in awe of her potential suitor, should her love interest not be a woman instead of a young man who is more interested in mincing across the stage and being admired for all his virile beauty? It truly feels that in their casting and choice of characters within the narrative they have missed great opportunities to push past such stereotypes; boringly we are, instead, presented with type casts which do nothing to push a contemporary vision or communicate anything of merit to the audience.
The faults surrounding casting and characters do not fall solely on the performers, themselves, for they do as much as they can within such a limited scope – in fact, audiences only just fall short of feeling sorry for the cast having appeared in this work, which, sadly, does not extend much further than a quality of work you might find in a graduate show from VCA. However, this is a major production, presented at one of Melbourne most important and esteemed venues, and, as such, audience should rightly expect so much more from it.
Aside from these flaws, the production, itself, relies too heavily upon musical interludes that in no way make up for or disguise a lack of dialogue or true dramatic tension; when we look at a work, such as this, with only a run time of 45 minutes, we should not be presented with mise en scenes where nothing more transpires than an oft fitting musical number or a few haphazard moments of direction and physicality that stretch out any longer than a couple of minutes. Issues with production sadly do not stop here, between the scenes and even in quieter moments on stage, you hear the heavy footsteps of performers or the creaking of the stage underfoot and this detracts further from the experience as a whole. The work of this company having solidified a reputation as being beautifully constructed stuff and always highly visual, has, here, even left audiences wanting in this area.
Not much about this is redeeming and it is hard to pinpoint any particular moments that the creative team could further draw upon to resurrect this performance as something of greatness; quite possibly the only thing to be done here is to take a long hard introspective look, take it back to development, and start again. An easy contender for most disappointing show of 2018, The Nightingale And The Rose by Little Ones Theatre is a sadly disappointing affair.