The Bone Sparrow is a joyous and sensitive exploration of a harrowing story about a detention centre in Australia from the eyes of young Subhi, the first baby born in the centre. A compelling and moving story beautifully acted by every member of the company. Yet the star of the show is the set, staging, and ensemble work giving us a masterclass in how in a few square meters a team of creatives can come together to transport us to another world entirely.
At first glance, the set is deceptively simple, but after the first elaborate movement sequence (of both people and set) we are promptly introduced to the clever ingenuity of the set. It isn’t the same theatre magic of a big budget, it’s the intricate use of one prop and stunning light design by Ben Cowens, to suggest the roaring noise of the ocean. It’s also the flow of the bodies turning into scenery, pulling characters in and out of scenes giving an eery and wonderful rippling effect that rivals anything a camera can do because your eye can’t deceive you here, it’s happening live. The puppetry scenes orchestrated by puppet director and maker Alison Duddle are enchanting. The designer Miriam Nabarro want to “create a space that could shift from the harsh day-to-day reality of a detention centre in the Australian desert, to the open magical space in which dreams and drawings could come alive as quickly and seamlessly as imagination itself”, and she succeeds to astonishing effect.
The message of the story hits home at various moments throughout the play, from the code naming of the refugees to the systematic coverup of an unjust killing of an inmate. I am reminded of Hannah Arendt’s writings on refugees and the powerlessless of the stateless. In this play the emotional reality of the impact this has on refugees from different generations is vividly illustrated. Heartily recommend catching this while you can as Theatre Peckham is the Pilot Theatre’s last stop on their well-acclaimed tour!
By Tasnim Siddiqa Amin
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The Bone Sparrow is currently showing until Saturday 23rd April 2022 at Theatre Peckham. To find out more about the production, visit here…
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