Joy Fear & Poetry

An unsuccessful attempt at presenting an unrestrained, unconstructed view of what it means to be a child today.
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Presented as part of La Boite Indie’s second season, Joy Fear & Poetry tries to present an unrestrained, unconstructed view of what it means to be a child today. And what better place to start than in the dark?

A flashlight spills across the stage revealing what appears to be a cardboard cubby house. It is an imposing structure, a nightmarish formation of geometric shapes where, from snug little cut outs in the walls, small shadows peep out trying not to be caught by the flashlight. But as each shadow is spotted, the revealed child giggles and collapses to the ground, dead.


This opening is wonderfully refreshing yet familiar. We recognise the sense and absurdity of children imitating death; while we the adults feel that sickening jolt of disturbance at the sight of a child’s limp body, the child themselves vibrates with laughter before jumping up, only to be ‘killed’ again by their friends onstage. The wild chaos of their play successfully ignites within the audience that yearning to be young again.

Unfortunately though, this youthful energy is soon lost, with Natasha Budd’s adult theatrics often smothering the spark of a child’s smile. The strangely amusing sight of child carnage at the head of the show, for instance, is interrupted by a stage spotlight. The children gather round, apparently fascinated by its sudden appearance. But the activity feels simulated, their smiles strained. The children are no longer privy to their own imaginations but to that of their director.

I remember being told in a drama class once that to act, one must access their inner child. The reasoning behind this was that children are more in touch with the elusive realm of ‘pretend’ than we are. And in many ways, they are closer. Children use pretend to unravel the mysteries of the world around them; their imagination fills the complex gaps in their experience of the adult world. Budd’s production attempts to emulate this, with its colourful set, props and projections of drawings and anecdotes. But nothing quite beats children actually interacting with an adult. Actor Dash Kruck provides a charming foil for the kids on stage, drawing out their genuine selves and allowing them to playfully navigate that elusive boundary between age and innocence. These rare moments of childish insight, though, are lost to a very confusing array of adult direction.  

Joy Fear & Poetry should have been a play in the truest sense of the word. Budd’s production attempts to act like a kaleidoscopic playground, where children run in and out of each scene, trying to communicate something authentic and profound. The problem though is that the children constantly appear stunted, lost in the very adult constructions around them. This confused sense of direction and scope leads to a show entirely without shape, heart, or the ‘joy’ of its title.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Joy Fear & Poetry

By Natasha Budd

Director and Designer: Natasha Budd

Associate Director: Heather Fairbairn

Dramaturg: Kris Plummer

Sound Designer: Peter Nelson

Lighting Designer and Head Electrician: Joel Redding

Head Vision and Sound: Ryan Mahony

Lead Teacher: Artist Matthew Seery

Teacher: Artists Chloe-Jayne Mitchell, Chrissy Alley and Caitlin Adie


The Loft, QUT Kelvin Grove

10 – 20 July


Torrey Atkin
About the Author
Andrew Einspruch is a writer and producer with Wild Pure Heart Productions. His latest projects are the feature film The Farmer, and the forthcoming web series Wisdom from the Paddock. You can follow him on Twitter at @einspruch.