Tuesday, July 3, 2018



Designed and directed by Kim Carpenter. Choreographer. Julia Cotton. Sound designer. Ross Johnston. Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image. National Portrait Gallery. July 3 – 22. 2018. FREE!


Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

A figure clothed in black, and bent with age moves slowly into the centre of the National Portrait Gallery foyer. It is the haunting image of the witch in Grimm’s fairy tales. A young woman (Holly  Austin) gazes on, curious as the figure slowly stand upright to reveal a man’s face beneath the hood. Four year old twin girls sit transfixed as the black clothing is removed to reveal a young man (Adriano Cappeletta). An image of assumption is replaced by an image of anticipation. Little Beauty is the magical, enchanting and transfixing children’s theatre offering from Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image. Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, Little Beauty is a beautiful portrait of a young couple’s love and devotion on life’s journey. Performed in the foyer of the National Portrait Gallery, Little Beauty creates a world of wonder for young and old alike. The black cloak becomes a   symbol of the Australian landscape. Gradually, objects reveal the developing society of a nation on the other side of the world. Cars, planes, buidings, Captain Cook and the Endeavour, a waving queen anmd the unique animals of the Australian bush construct the world as we know it.

It is the world that the man and the woman inhabit, it is the world in which they meet, fall in love, marry, live together and travel full circle from their first meeting to their inevitable parting at the end of life’s journey and experience.  Throughout the performance the image of portraiture paints a picture of beauty, emotion, experience and relationship. Cappeletta and Austin are ideally cast to capture a young audience’s imagination through their physical theatre, stylistically choreographed by Julia Cotton, and clowning skills. If a picture can paint a thousand words, then Little Beauty would fill a bookshelf with stories of our history, our land, its people and their lives. It is all told with an eye and image for a child’s understanding of their world. The characters play I Spy and Hide and Seek and the twins gaze entranced as boxes of presents are slowly unwrapped before their eyes. Mime and physical theatre under Artistic Director Kim Carpenter’s carefully staged business creates a simple but expressive love story.

Holly Austin and AdrianoCappeletta in Little Beauty
Successful children’s theatre holds the power of storytelling to enchant child and adult alike. Carpenter is the magic maker, layering his show with child-like simplicity and adult sophistication Quotes by artists are played over a not entirely effective sound system, at least to this reviewer’s less acute ear. Charles Blackman’s “I want life to be a perfect circle” is the cue to unify the universe by moving sticks that spell out IMMORTAL at the front of the stage into a circle that transforms into the universal life cycle of experience for the two characters. Listen carefully to hear quoted comments by Nora Heysen, Chrissie Amphlett, Ian Thorpe, Lloyd Rees and astronaut Andy Thomas, who teaches us that what is most important in life is being there. Love and beauty are immortalized for all time through the magic of portraiture, as the young man strives to capture the eternal beauty of his love.

Holly Austin and Adriano Capeletta
As a portrait of life and relationships, Little Beauty colours the mind and eye from a richly daubed palette of images, mime, clowning and gentle sentiment. For forty minutes, the twin girls sat rapt, silent at times, laughing at others and gazing in wonder at the large colourful balloons. Through the physical antics of the young characters come the recorded voices of experience. Carpenter’s thoughtful and sensitive direction is perfectly accompanied by Ross Johnston’s soundtrack. Only the presence of a stagehand, whom I suspect is a member of the gallery staff, detracted from the visual delight of this show. A touch of inconspicuous costuming would have added a nice element of theatrical  mystery.
Holly Austin in Littlre Beauty
That aside, this charming, exquisitely directed, simply staged and  cleverly performed show at the National Portrait Gallery is a little beauty for young and old alike. Don’t miss it. It’s a real school holidays treat!