PERTH THEATRE COMPANY: This powerful production employs puppetry, animation, live performance and music to explore the experience of living with Alzheimer’s.
It’s Dark Outside transports us on a wild journey into memory, illness, and loss. Created by puppeteers Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs, and based on both personal experience and research, this powerful production employs puppetry, animation, live performance and music to explore Alzheimer’s. Light and darkness are a common motif in the production; the trio’s research suggests that during sunset people with Alzheimer’s will seek adventure, whether it be in their own minds or out in the wilderness.
The adventure begins with an old man sitting drinking tea and contemplating. His teacup, followed by the table and chair are at the mercy of the three puppeteers who swiftly move these items around in a choreographed dance. Is he going mad? Is he delusional or hallucinating? It’s up to us to decide.
As his mind continues to wander, minutes later, cotton wool balls drift across the stage to present a variety of memories from his past. They transform themselves into a very clever dancing poodle and a neon ‘Z’ which floats across his cot in the nursery. Finally we see his demise as the stuffing falls out of his body. Despite all he has, he comes to the realization he cannot fight nature’s course. With a ceremonial folding of the old man’s clothes by a puppeteer, the man is dead.
The puppetry was executed deftly and comically, and included a dancing dome performing its own contortions. Many memories for me came flooding back when the old man’s alter ego rose out of the dome and performed a very authentic tap dance. I really appreciated watching the puppeteers manipulate his lower limbs, and oh those time steps, shuffles, kick ball changes… a real swinger in his day!
Stunning animation, featuring strong use of shadows and empty space, combined with projections of moving images and stills, complemented the action on stage.
Although the creators apologised for presenting such a sad tale, I had a huge grin on my face throughout, as it was so beautiful and captivating to watch. It is wise to say that It’s Dark Outside captures the inevitability of death. Although the production creates a dark atmosphere and lingering tension for the audience, the creators and puppeteers used the arts with great respect and grace in presenting such a sensitive topic.
The music, composed by Rachael Dease, and the haunting signature tune ‘Take My Hand When it’s Dark Outside’ stayed in my mind well after the show.
Overall, a wonderful combination of live theatre, puppetry and animation. Congratulations also to Melissa Cantwell, Artistic Director of Perth Theatre Company, for commissioning this brilliant work.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
It’s Dark Outside
Created and performed by Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs
Music composed by Rachael Dease
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
July 4 – 14
First published on