Theatre Review: The Cockatoos - Blue Room Theatre, Perth (Performances through November 7th)

Photo by Jon Green

The Cockatoos is the latest work from writer and director Andrew Hale of Happy Dagger Theatre. Adapted from Nobel Prize winning author Patrick White’s short story The Cockatoos follows the goings on a suburban street in Australia; where under the surface of respectability there are plenty of secrets and dark goings on. Hale and company have delivered a work that is at times poetic, intimate and confronting, but always captivating.

This hour-long performance will likely leave you with more questions than answers and plenty to ponder over a post-show glass of wine or the drive home. It’s a play packed with symbolism, half spoken truths and more than a few secrets.

Suburbia never does turn out to be the happy place those ads try to depict; and the street in The Cockatoos is no different. There are broken marriages, paedophiles in the park at night; and “criminals” in the storm drains, Hale and his cohort have vividly brought that undercurrent to life; exposing the violence and darkness that lurks behind the Australian dream.

The Cockatoos is the second work I’ve seen by Happy Dagger Theatre, and once again the quality of acting on display was superb, whether working in ensemble, or with the individual actors taking on specific characters. Hale imbues Mick with just the right blend of charisma and world weariness, whilst Nichola Renton gave a nuanced performance as the “tormented” Olive; a woman who has lost much more than her husband. Olive is a character whose portrayal could have erred towards overwrought, but for me Renton got it spot on.

Whilst there was plenty of quality acting on display; there was plenty of talent behind the scenes as well; from Tegan Evans lighting, to Will Slade’s score which provided the perfect atmospheric accompaniment. Whilst India Mehta’s set design was minimal; but utterly effective, especially when the full extent is revealed near the play’s climax.

The Cockatoos is a captivating work; one which sheds light on the underbelly of Australian suburban life; with it’s secrets and extra-martial affairs. It’s a thought provoking piece, and at times confronting; the plays closing moments are not for the faint hearted. The Cockatoos once again finds Andrew Hale and Happy Dagger Theatre onto a winner.

The Cockatoos is performing at Perth’s Blue Room Theatre until November 7th for more information and ticketing visit:

The Reviewer attended the performance on the 30th October.