Laser Beak Man @ Roundhouse Theatre

“Heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary.” Gerard Way

 

As a young girl, my school holidays were spent at Chermside Shopping Centre watching the daily puppet show.  Magical, expensively crafted marionettes carved as people, animals, and objects that danced and sang without a human hand in sight.  Becoming friends with a girl in the next street in Grade 5, I visited her house one afternoon to discover the entire puppet show set up in her downstairs rumpus.   Her father was the PUPPET MAN, and we were allowed to play with them whenever we wanted.  That’s when I learned the extreme art and difficulty of realistically manipulating a puppet.

Dead Puppet Society first came onto my radar when I saw The Untimely Death of Victor Blott at Metro Arts Independents in 2010.  Unlike the shows of my youth, Victor Blott was aimed at an adult audience and there was no attempt to hide the puppeteers or their machinations.  It worked spectacularly.  Witnessing the death of this frail mute little puppet, surrounded by his beloved fire flies, punched me so hard in the chest I sobbed like a baby.  I’ve followed everything creators David Morton-Paine and Nicholas Morton-Paine have presented ever since and have never been disappointed.

Walking into Brisbane Festival’s Theatre Republic space on Thursday 21st November I was transported to my happy place.  Laughter and smiles, funky spaces and alcoves to explore and retreat into, and standing in the centre of it all Brisbane’s Tim Sharp.  Diagnosed with autism, Tim has come a long way from the 3-year-old boy whose Mum was told, “he will never speak, he will never go to school, he will never learn anything, he feels absolutely nothing for you, and the best thing you can do is get on with your own life and pretend you never had him.”  Creating and drawing his superhero character Laser Beak Man has given Tim a means of communication, his passion, and now his profession. 

Presented with a small-scale set and a story of three childhood friends, Beaky, Emily, and Peter Bartman growing up in the utopia of Power City, the first scenes give us an insight into each character’s personality traits and allow us to become comfortable with the visibility of the seven puppeteers (three from Australia and four from New York).  A clever and funny time progression montage takes Beaky and friends from kindergarten to university, where a fellow student invents Magna Crystals, a clean free energy source that will power the entire world.  Much to the chagrin of the jealous Peter, the green glowing crystals transform Beaky into Laser Beak Man.  Armed with a laser zapper that emits from his red pointy beak, his superpower is changing bad into good, and he sets out turning frowns upside down, flying about Power City leaving a trail of rainbows and happiness.  Thanks to set designer Jonathan Oxlade and animator Justin Harrison, this is the point where the entire set explodes and expands into a jaw-dropping kaleidoscope of colour and movement.  Although the most technical production I’ve witnessed, and with much that could go awry, Samuel Maher (Technical Manager) keeps all in check, whilst still controlling the massive AirOrbs that hover and glide with expert precision above our heads. 

Peter and Emily steal the coveted crystal’s, Laser Beak Man loses his powers but gains new friends, and an assortment of Power City characters join the mix; a Trumpesque Mayor, hippy Amazing Grace, Barbie, a delightful Black Sheep, Ram, Boar, and Tomato Man).  The actors/puppeteers ability to personalise and alter their voices is remarkable.  Even if you are not looking at the puppet you always know who is speaking.  What follows is a rollicking, yet poignant hero’s journey full of heart.

Although Laser Beak Man never speaks, his inner thoughts and feelings are perfectly conveyed via Sam Cromack’s (Ball Park Music) lyrics and score.  Live in the theatre, backed by Ball Park Music members the Hanson twins (guitar, bass, drums) and the bands touring Stage Technician Luke Moseley (keyboards), Cromack’s vocal has a wistful beauty that never intrudes, only enhances.    

Aimed at an age range of 8 and up, this is a relatable human story that explores good vs bad, acceptance of difference, ethics/morals, love and honour, envy, friendship, FOMO, renewable energy, and political oppression, all wrapped up in a humorous and accessible family package.  An hour into the 90 min show I looked around at the audience, most had dumb grins across their face, all were invested in the story, and one girl had her head on her boyfriend’s chest like they were home snuggled on the couch.  Many adults felt like her that night.  Personally, I’d been transported back in time to watching my favourite Saturday morning cartoons, curled up in a corduroy bean-bag, holding a giant bowl of Fruit Loops.  Yes, for a brief moment in time I was a child in my pyjamas, being thrilled by the adventures of Laser Beak Man

Highly Recommended for ALL

 

By Lisa Bingham

 

Laser  Beak Man 

A La Boite, Dead Puppet Society and Brisbane Festival Production,

in Association with Power Arts

Season: 9 – 30 September