Performance review: I Wish…, Theatre Royal

Children's circus in a collaborative effort that gently introduced young visitors to physical theatre.
I Wish... In front of a backdrop of a huge moon in the night sky, four circus performers dressed in yellow, blue, red and green perform, with two performers holding aloft a third who is doing the splits, while the fourth performer stands at the back holding up an Astera light tube.

School holidays offer many opportunities to shift out of normal routines and the team at Theatre Royal nipaluna/Hobart, have perfectly pitched their 2024 Staycation School Holiday Program for that audience. 

With one early and two late matinees, I Wish… was a collaboration between leading children’s performance company, Patch Theatre, and the renowned physical theatre/circus company Gravity & Other Myths, both from South Australia. Packaged with pre-show Wishing Wall foyer activities and post-show online engagement and activity ideas, I Wish… has been designed for neat and targeted touring. Patch’s focus on performance for four- to eight-year-olds and their families has been combined with circus performers from Gravity & Other Myths, in a very gentle introduction to physical theatre.

From the outset, the audience was welcomed into the theatre space, to get their bearings and to feel comfortable with any new relationships. The four performers moved around, offered small props to hold and gradually found their way to the stage. Their bold red, blue, yellow and green costumes were comfortable and individual versions of familiar clothes. 

Then, it was time to introduce each as a person with both special capabilities and feelings. Building the sense of ensemble, a gameshow-like soundtrack took the simple “pass the movement” into a series of group interactions, making balancing tricks look easy and then more challenging. Acrobatic flying, strong weight taking and balancing had the audience in awe.

Bouncy sound effects matched the movement in some sections, while simple video projections created an infinite world beyond the stage into which the performers were digitised via an iPhone. Emphasising positive outcomes, uncomplicated text reassured the audience that everyone has doubts and may need to find ways to make things feel better. Connection and contact between each performer was caring and careful as they squeezed between body shapes to find a place for themselves. 

Amid physical jokes with bottom cheeks and the sounds of 1980s arcade games, the group introduced Astera tubes, which can change functions and create mini narratives. The use of this technology was simple and clear, with the focus on recognisable objects and experiences. This played back into the theme of recognising feelings and encouraging audience participation, responses and positive outcomes. Even the good old “audience wave” and plenty of fart jokes made a comeback. 

This more casual connection with the audience at times belied the skills of these performers. Their group acrobatic and hula hoop performances were polished, offering a lovely balance between tension, awe and relief for the outcome.

Read: Circus review: (Excerpts from) Nimble, Theatre Royal

I Wish… was a great introduction to physical theatre for young people, with plenty to satisfy those accompanying them. 

I Wish…

Presented by Theatre Royal with Patch Theatre in collaboration with Gravity & Other Myths 
AD and Creator: Geoff Cobham
Creator: Darcy Grant
Composer: Luke Smiles and Will Spartalis
Designer/Maker: Michelle “Maddog” Delaney
Technical Designer: Alexander Hatchard
Costume Designer: Renate Henschke
Animation: Luku
Touring Stage Manager: Briony Hunt
Technician: Ayden Martin
Original Cast/Maker: Zoë Dunwoodie, Wakara Gondarra, Simon McClure
Cast: Lisa Goldsworthy (also Original Cast/Maker), Tommy Matthewman, Violetta Van Geyzel, Amanda Lee

I Wish... was performed 23-24 April 2024.

Lesley Graham has been active in dance and dance education for over 30 years. She is a regular reviewer for ArtsHub and Dance Australia, a curriculum consultant, and represents Ausdance National on the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE).