Barry Morisse is an AI ethicist and thinker working with South African entrepreneurs. In his spare time he feeds his passion for theatre with his theatre club StageDoor which organizes group events for shows in Johannesburg.
There are certain things that you can do in a small theatre that you can’t accomplish in larger ones. Contagious Theatre’s The Snow Goose is one of those pieces where the intimacy is its greatest strength and it makes for a show with so much soul that you’re grinning all the way home.
I remember watching the show at the Grahamstown Arts Festival in 2014, where small, intimate theatres are the name of the game, and I was blown away by it (as was everyone else that year). When I heard that it was coming to a stage at Montecasino I wondered if it would retain the sort of small theatre magic that made the show what it was back then.
Spoiler: it does. It’s simply remarkable.
The show is an adaptation of Paul Gallico’s classic novella and is set against the background of the rescue at Dunkirk – in the marshes of Essex. A wounded snow goose brings together two unlikely characters: a young girl named Firth and a reclusive old man named Philip Rhayader. Their friendship that forms the backbone of the story and challenges the judgments we make of other people based on outward appearances
The most striking aspect of the show, and what makes it so unique, is that the story is told by just two cast members (James Cairns and Taryn Bennett) who utilize theatre masks and simple props to play a wide range of characters throughout. Paired with an incredible soundscape from the 1930’s, a show is knitted together with a minimal set that plays again to the show’s intimacy.
The best compliment that can be paid to the emotional storytelling is that after about 20 minutes or so, you find yourself forgetting about the masks and you look into the eyes of each individual character – seeing their intentions, their dreams and their concerns. It’s a truly remarkable piece of theatre in this regard. It requires no flash or spectacle – but merely a heartfelt retelling of the courage, empathy and ultimate tragedy that imbues these characters with the soul that makes this show what it is.
The Snow Goose is a reminder that storytelling still reigns supreme. You don’t need extravagant sets, complicated lighting or a large cast to evoke emotion in an audience. All you need is a story told with grace, wit and a bucket load of soul.
The Snow Goose ran at the Montecasino Studio Theatre from 30 October to 24 November 2019.