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Fringe World review: Josephine by Second Chance Theatre ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 7 February ·
Review by Cass Runyon & Varnya Bromilow ·

Cass Runyon, aged 8.

The play was very, very good which is why I rated it ten out of ten.

It’s about a girl who was lost in the roof of her apartment. She was sad because her aunty had died. The girl went on many adventures to find a lost friend. There were pirates, ghosts and some spookiness. I liked the pilot bit best. In the end everything turned out fine, but there were some scary bits in the middle.  I clapped my hands off at the end.

Scary rating: 8/10

Varnya Bromilow, aged 44.

How can I argue with the impassioned praise above?  Josephine is a piece of theatre aimed squarely at children and unlike much of contemporary children’s theatre, it does not aim to please the adults in the audience.  There are no sly winks to grown-ups, no under-the-table jokes that pass innocently over the heads of juniors.  The work is an earnestly felt, jumbled, flight of fancy.

Josephine’s beloved aunt has died.  Left alone in the apartment, cut off from the world, the young girl escapes into the cozy confines of the air vents in the roof.  From this vantage point, she can listen into a myriad neighbourly conversations…surrounding herself with the comfort of chatter, while recovering from her loss.  In doing this, Josephine discovers William, a young violinist who becomes her friend.  Following an argument William disappears and Josephine is faced with a choice – does she come down from her vented hidey-hole to search for her new friend, or does she stay ensconced in her very small world?

Unfortunately for an adult viewer, this is where the plot becomes a little less compelling as our heroine embarks upon a series of unrelated and random adventures in her quest to find her friend.  We encounter a tyrannical pirate queen; a haunted circus-world (replete with forlorn ghost); and lastly a flight with Amelia Earhart.  The loose linking theme of these escapades is Josephine’s need to conquer her fears.  But the narrative thread is a slender one – whimsical enough to hold the attention of children but not so for anyone over ten.

Josephine is produced by Second Chance Theatre and directed and written by the prolific Scott McArdle, a regular at the Blue Room.  The performers (Rhianna Hall, Tristan McInnes, Jo Morris and Nick Maclaine) are confident and engaging.  Morris, who you may know from her work with Black Swan Theatre, has a remarkable stage presence and a perfect ear for accents.  Perhaps because this is McArdle’s first foray into children’s theatre, he makes the unusual directorial decision to have the actors execute their roles in a manner best described as Playschoolesque.  Wide eyed, slow-talking, overly expressive…it feels like the show is pitched at the 3-7 year-old set, rather than the advertised 9-18.  It’s very difficult to imagine a teenager enjoying what is essentially a play for small children.

It’s churlish to demand that a play for children be as captivating for adults.  We’ve been a little spoilt in recent years by the feast of spectacles that satisfy such disparate age groups.  For an adult, Josephine is a simply told, meandering affair but as evidenced by the eager applause from junior hands the night I went, it hits the spot squarely for young dreamers.

Josephine runs until February 17th.

Photo: Sean Smith

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