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Chrissie Shaw: Reviews & Showlist


AN image of an elderly, pearl-draped woman, taken by photographer Brassai in the Bar de la Lune in Montmartre in 1932, was the catalyst for this extraordinary production.
The woman was known as Bijou and, while little is known about her, her image inspired Canberra actor/writer, Chrissie Shaw to create and perform this exquisitely evocative cabaret about a wonderfully irascible, mischievous, beguiling story-teller.

Shaw draws on all her theatrical skills, honed over a career of remarkable performances, to create a totally believable, fascinating character, who sings, dances, teases, flirts, and ultimately breaks your heart, as she rummages through her recollections, rewinding her life as a survivor of the “Great War”.

Her stories are funny, horrifying, pathetic and sometimes profoundly sad, but all have the ring of truth… or are they just the ramblings of a manipulative, clever, old woman desperate to hold the attention of the audience, who, unwittingly, have become another character in her stories?

Susan Pilbeam’s unobtrusive direction carefully guides Shaw through Imogen Keen’s warm, glowing Bar de la Rue, decorated with flickering candlelight and rich fabrics. Curtains become bridal veils, and table numbers morph into sensuous props as Bijou moves among her audience, dancing a la Mata Hari, or singing with a voice that has known life, the cleverly chosen collection of songs which advance and embellish her stories.

Liz Lea has devised dances that fit the character as beautifully as Victoria Worley’s luxurious collection of faded finery and Gillian Schwab bathes the whole proceedings in ever-changing, dramatic, moody lighting.

Alan Hicks is superb as the long-suffering bar-pianist, providing a strong supportive presence, sensitive piano accompaniments and even gentle vocal harmonies. All are essential contributions to a riveting tour de force performance by Chrissie Shaw in this gloriously entertaining, beautifully realised production.
Bill Stephens - City News, Canberra ACT. (Aug 30, 2013)
Dark tale of high life and tragedy a cabaret gem.

The Street theatre’s small Street 2 studio space has always been an intense space for cabaret-style shows and Bijou continues that tradition. Chrissie Shaw has developed a sinister and sensual piece from a 1932 postcard of a woman identified only as Bijou in a Paris bar. Out of this, Shaw, along with director Susan Pilbeam, choreographer Liz Lea and pianist Alan Hicks, has devised an emotional history for this still glamorous but somewhat ravaged image.
Shaw glowers among furs and pearls in the first half as she sketches in a story set against the events of Parisian history and accompanied by appropriate songs and music. She makes it pretty clear from the outset that she’s not keen on Poulenc, but Satie, Johann Strauss and Kurt Weill seem to pass muster. She moves among the audience tables reading palms and rattling the tin to take up a collection for the entertainment.
Soon, however, the atmosphere turns more sinister as she starts to reveal her life story: the men, the running of a brothel, her forays into an artistic life, and the terrible sexual exploitation of a child that starts it all. The story seems to stretch from the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune through World War 1 and the 1920s to the growing threats of the early ‘30s. There’s abuse, an illegitimate child, a marriage to German nobility, a life lived in and out of nightclubs and a succession of lovers. As old age threatens, the pearls and furs vanish and there is a chilling disintegration.
Shaw maps this with aplomb, switching from song to speech and surrounding the audience with images of Bijou’s life. The vulnerability of a woman in times and places where control over one’s life is not easy comes across strongly in an encounter with those who have nowhere to go but the streets and, devastatingly, when a child is betrayed by one whom she should be able to trust.
Shaw is backed by Hick’s unobtrusive piano and occasional singing. There’s a depth to the musical choices that supports the times and places of the narrative.
The gently appropriate design work of Imogen Keen, Gillian Schwab’s moody lighting and Victoria Worley’s equally moody costumes go well with this.
It’s a complex show with some timing that needs a little tightening, but time in front of appreciative audiences should provide that.
Alanna Maclean - The Canberra Times (Aug 31, 2013)
SmallShows in association with The Street Theatre Made in Canberra series. Written and performed by Chrissie Shaw. The Street Theatre. 29 Aug 2013

I love an element of surprise when going to the theatre – to go in without any preconceptions and immerse myself in new perspectives and experiences. But when I read the blurb from the seductive postcard-sized flyer for Bijou, I thought I had it sussed before I even caught a glimpse of the show. Thinking it to be standard cabaret fare that would equate to an entertaining, run of the mill night of cheek, I soon found I was deeply mistaken.

While enjoying the pensive opening cabaret tunes of pianist Alan Hicks, the ageing star of this one-woman show, Bijou, (Chrissie Shaw) saunters into the room looking battle scarred and world weary in her tatty fur, glossy pearls and heavily made up face. Rattling her tin cup for donations in front of our noses, it struck me this was not the glamorous production I was anticipating and I wondered if she would be able to hold the audience for the duration of the one hundred minute show.

However, after a spot of gleeful menacing of this rather reserved bunch of Canberrans it was time to get down to business, with Bijou stepping up to her platform in the middle of the room and unleashing her divine voice on the audience. Weaved through a selection of both familiar and obscure French and German songs from the 17th to the 20th Century, Bijou tells us of her colourful life of extremes that would make even the most liberated woman bury her blushing face in her hands.

Growing up in France during the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870’s, we follow Bijou through her intensely personal experiences that take her, in no particular order, from innocent and naïve young country girl to fetching stage actress living off her feminine charms, cynical proprietor of a Parisian brothel, and finally to an old lady resigned to her fate and haunted by her memories – what is actually the truth we never really know.

While taking some time to fully connect with the audience in the opening scenes, once Shaw hit her stride she clearly had their undivided attention. It snuck up on you quietly; one moment you were casually interested in this sordid story, and the next you were utterly absorbed in her every word and deed. And while the content matter does sound like it could be a little heavy for a pleasant night out, it is told in such an uninhibited fashion with a level of detachment and matter-of-factness that ensures it never feels overly intense.

It was quite a privilege to watch someone at Shaw’s age embody past versions of her character with such authenticity and precision, whether it be enfant, mademoiselle or madame. This was a woman who had lived multiple lives, constantly reinventing herself to survive in a man’s world, with each recreation creating another fascinating layer that is testament to the great depth of Shaw’s writing ability and character development.

With often quite saucy, even erotic themes, Shaw as Bijou also pulled off a level of sensual exploration much more grounded and assured than I have seen in any younger performers. Stripping down to a lavish corset and pantaloons (by designer Victoria Worley), she seemingly delighted in challenging people on the widely held belief that maturity and sexuality is an oxymoron.

The venue for the evening was the more intimate Street Two theatre, which was lovingly transformed by set designer Imogen Keen into a sumptuous, if somewhat seedy, bohemian den of delight complete with red velvet curtains, empty photo frames on the wall and candle lit tables. More than just a set, the surroundings served as tactile props for her elegant and stirring dance routines (choreographed by Liz Lea) as much as they contributed to the visual ambience.

Shaw’s chemistry with Hicks did come off as a little stilted to begin with, with their comedic timing just not quite joining forces. However, once they eased into the performance this worked itself out and they made amiable companions for the remainder of the show, with some charming duos sprinkled throughout.

Once again I was reminded of the astounding creativity out there in the Canberra performing arts world that has the perpetual ability to challenge the bounds of my imagination. Although Bijou set out to unravel the mysteries of a multi-faceted fictional character’s heart, there’s no doubt in my mind that the woman who penned her into life is just as fascinating.

Deborah Hawke
Deborah Hawke - The Barefoot Review: Adelaide (Aug 30, 2013)
Bedecked in faded finery, Madame Bijou sits in a Parisian café. It is 1932 and her photo has been taken by Hungarian artist Brassai. He has captured her decaying glory and the pride she takes in her jewels that speak of past triumphs and long ago passions. A year later he will describe her in his book Paris de nuit as a nightmare of the streets. Needless to say this will not be well received by the feisty Madame Bijou…

Canberra actress Chrissie Shaw saw Brassai’s photo of Madame Bijou several years ago in the shop of the National Gallery of Victoria and was captivated. That moment sparked Chrissie’s research into this wonderful character, and has ultimately led to the creation of Bijou: a cabaret of secrets and seduction, playing at the Street Theatre until 8 September.

This is a one-woman tour de force through time, beginning in the 1930s and weaving back and forth through the decades, through World War One and the Franco-Prussian War, and the days of decadence and hedonism before and after each conflict. Part fact and part imagined history, Bijou’s stories spill forth as she caresses her jewellery, memories unfolding as to how she acquired particular pieces. Songs flow naturally, sometimes unleashing other memories, as when Bijou sings a song of a lost son, revealing her own son-who knew her only as his elder sister-became a casualty of the Great War.

You never know if the memories she shares will be erotic, tragic or funny. They never emerge as a linear or chronological journey, but each memory is a piece of the puzzle of how Bijou became a celebrated performer at the Théâtre des Variétés and then a successful bordello owner. All the while there is the unseen but malevolent presence of her enemy, a man who hides his sinister desires behind a pious façade.

The audience is drawn further and further into her story, and the clever setting of the theatre encourages that intimacy. Rather than rows of seats, the theatre has become a Parisian café, with tables scattered around the room. This allows Bijou to move about freely, reading palms and begging for coins, all the while exhorting everyone to have another drink. And since this is a café style, you can take your drinks from the bar in with you, a perfect way to get into the mood.

Music and song are characters in their own right, and Bijou is accompanied by a classical pianist (Alan Hicks) she mocks for being ‘from the Conservatoire’, and taunts him into abandoning his high-brow melodies for flirty tunes she can sing to. The songs reflect the eras of her life, from Charleston and tango numbers in the 20s to dance hall numbers from the 1890s. The most moving piece is Bijou playing the piano herself, as a small child, practising the traditional French melody that we know as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

This is an extraordinary performance by Chrissie Shaw, a veteran of the stage for more than 30 years. She brings both despair and joy as well as great charm to this bawdy and lusty lady, who is the ultimate in shabby chic. In her 60s herself, Chrissie has learnt to dance for the role, training her muscles to take her through the paces of the Charleston and other period dances.

Alan Hicks is a wonderful accompaniment on the piano, playing softly as the audience takes their seats and welcoming us so completely into this other world that it comes as a surprise when Bijou charges through the front door. He is a gentle presence throughout, in the final moments tenderly wrapping a coat around her shoulders.

Based on the promotional photo you might think this is a burlesque show, but instead it is a poignant drama. There is stripping and teasing though, as Bijou sheds her clothes as she moves around the café tables, encouraging members of the audience to help her undo garments.

Gentlemen be warned: if she approaches you, make sure you know exactly how to undress a lady. One young man on the night I went had quite a lot of trouble popping the clasp on Bijou’s suspender belt and received an important lesson, “Always push up and out!” she cheekily commanded him. I’m sure he won’t forget in a hurry.
Heather Wallace - HerCanberra (Sep 2, 2013)
The artist Gyula Halász, originally from the ancient Transylvanian town of Brassó, became the photographer of Paris nightlife where he was known as Brassaï. In 1933 he published a book including this photo of “Bijou” of the Montmartre cabarets, apparently without ever speaking to the woman.

Four years of research and writing has produced a life and times of Bijou – fictional, but entirely possible. Beginning from lines from Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire, which include Elle n’avait gardé que ses bijoux sonores, and entwining into a kind of internal monologue – spoken, mimed and sung by the anonymous “Bijou” – an enormous range of French and German music, Shaw has created perhaps the most significant work of her long stage career in Canberra.

Her story begins as she refuses to acknowledge the Brassaï closeup hung on the side wall of our cabaret setting. He knew nothing of the real person he so rudely photographed. She blinds him with her hat and recalls the joys and terrors of her life. The measure of her character was coming across one of the girls she had known at convent school – like her, sexually used and abused by a leading figure in the Church – as an adult: poverty stricken, demoralised and literally looking like death. Bijou would survive: indeed she would use the men who would use her, and succeed in bringing down the archbishop via a secret tunnel by which he visits her brothel. He does not recognise her from when she was his 12-year-old sex-object, literally; but one of her “girls” recognises him in all his regalia during Mass, and screams out the truth.

The son born of her illegitimate liaison is brought up by Bijou’s parents, believing Bijou to be his elder sister. But the play – which this is, rather than the merely entertaining cabaret it first appears to be – is not only about the appalling treatment of women, family shame, and the strength of character needed by a woman to rise above the indignity and even threats to her life, such as when her German nobleman officer “husband” sends her home to Paris after World War I when “he could have killed me” because she knew too much of his affairs.

The awful twist to her story is that her secret son dies in that very war, and we are faced not only with how a mother must carry on despite such a loss, but also with the realisation that this war – the “Great War” to “End all Wars” was a lie, as all wars are. And we know, as she was photographed in 1933, how true her recognition of this would be. And still is.

Though for me the first half was played rather too “studied”, in the second half we warm to this woman, from her first true love (who at 21 is recovered by his upper class family and married to the “right” kind of girl) to her acceptance of her life as a permanent denizen of a bar in Montmartre, in her sixties. She has an odd but interesting relationship with her pianist who, having previously walked out to escape her demands, finally returns to recover her hat. The Brassaï photo is revealed once more, but we now know the truth behind the picture.

This is a brave work, and a great example of the value of the Made in Canberra project, with excellent quality in the work by Susan Pilbeam as director and dramaturg; Alan Hicks as pianist and in character; Imogen Keen for a wonderful evocative set, reminding me very much of the erstwhile School of Arts Cafe, Queanbeyan; Liz Lea for choreography which recreated the styles of the times, from the 1870s to the 1930s; Gillian Schwab for lighting; Victoria Worley for providing costumes that could peel back the years as Bijou remembered them; and Chrissie Shaw herself for an original work, both personal and socially significant, and for singing and speaking with such vocal range – from the likes of Johann Strauss, various art song composers, Eric Satie, Kurt Weill and, to conclude, to Jean Lenoir’s Parlez-Moi d’Amour – just my thoughts, indeed.
Frank McKone - Canberra Critics Circle (Sep 1, 2013)

Gran's Bag

In Gran’s Bag the subject is less “Gran” than her bag, and the elements within it. This is where the magical transformations take place. The eponymous bag is a huge contraption which spins and morphs and unfolds (even, at the end, changes its cover) to reveal itself as a house for puppets, characters, stories, and scenes.
It’s even the repository for other handbags, each of which tells itd own tale. The tidy white bag wants to help everyone out of strife; the soft baggy one wants to cuddle and comfort; the Chinese silk purse feels lost when its little girl owner (sic) emigrates to Australia.
These bags, in fact, become the “characters” in the performance. All three end up whisked away by accident or fate and find themselves in the Dark Forest, where the puppet figure of Baba Yaga (who traditionally captures and eats little boys and girls) finds them and takes them home to be cooked. The bags find their courage and devise a secret plan. They unravel themselves and become intertwined into a long thread which weaves itself into a tiny magic carpet. A wind takes them back to freedom. Baba Yaga has a long and funny tantrum when she sees she’s lost her meal.
In other transformations, handbags change size from big to small; Gran’s big bag has side flaps which set the scene for Baba Yaga’s house, and inner folds which become scenic backdrops, like chapters in a book – a palace courtyard in China becoming a block of Sydney flats. Performer Chrissie Shaw shows her ease with sleight-of-hand, puppetry and song in a gentle show full of songs and laughter, and in easy rapport with the young audience.
Shaw does not so much become the Gran who talks to everyone on the bus, or the one who does cartwheels on the lawn, as show us the possibilities of where the combination of imagination, love, bravery and the unpredictable can take us. I especially appreciate the unapologetic inclusion of a different language and culture – in this case Chinese – so easily within the performance.
An easy watch for the 4 – 7 age group, it was not too frightening for the under-fours, nor unengaging for carers in the audience. Recommended as an experience of good honest theatre that transforms everything in its path.
Zsuzsi Soboslay - The Canberra Times (Jul 10, 2009)
Dearest Chrissie,
What an absolute pleasure to have you at Glen Street Theatre!

We have received a number of verbal compliments from Mums and Bubs regarding Gran’s Bag, and also below is a written
complement from one of our council employees who attended with her kids.

On a personal note as Customer Service/Front of House Manager, introducing your show was a thrill and
I hope that we can see you again on the Northern Beaches of Sydney!

Wishing you all the best and chookers!
Robert Taylor
Customer Service Manager
Glen Street Theatre
PO Box 9|Frenchs Forest|NSW|1640
Direct 02 8426 1814
Mob 0407 812 919

From: Kath Mckenzie [] 
Sent: Tuesday, 13 July 2010 9:30 AM
To: Robert Taylor
Subject: RE: Gran's Bag feedback

To whom it may concern,

I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful production of ‘Gran’s Bag’ at Glen Street Theatre. The kids were enthralled by the story and mesmerised by the puppetry. They were glued to Gran from the moment go, laughed all the way and were left in wonder and awe of the magical bag. I too really enjoyed the performance but especially loved seeing how engaged my kids were throughout the whole show. Best of all they left wanting to see more!!
Many thanks for such a wonderful production.
(aka: mum of Harvey, Asher & Elsa from the Northern Beaches)

Kath McKenzie
Producer Cultural & Civic Events
Warringah Council 
( ph 9942 2577 or 0458 788 806 | ( fax 9971 4522| *
Kath McKenzie, Warringah Council NSW - General Public (Jul 19, 2010)

Drumming on Water

Elements of film noir pervade Page’s poetic narrative… but (his) ironic humour at the moment of action (“reaching down to grab the gun had seemed too far to stoop”) pens a less suspenseful tone, preferring to lend his amateur sleuth a far more comical aspect than a film noir heroine of crime detection would portray.

Director Kate Gaul imbues Page’s verse play with a dramatic metre, eliciting an excellent performance from Shaw, and evocatively underscoring the one-hour monologue with Mitchell’s hypnotic interludes on sax, recalling a shattered dream and consuming obsession.

…an evening of intriguing entertainment that is sure to please…Don’t miss this theatrical treat.
Peter Wilkins - Canberra Times (Jun 9, 2006)
It was an enthralling, an all-absorbing tale as Chrissie Shaw told it, with haunting snippets of memory on an alto saxophone from Sylvia Mitchell.
Wendy Brazil - ArtSound radio (Jun 10, 2006)

The Keeper

There is an astonishing charm in THE KEEPER. Chrissie is almost childlike in the telling of her stories – sometimes she sings a snatch of song; she narrates bits of her stories to herself; she might suddenly lecture to us briefly on aspects of lighthouses, the keeping of the light, and the living conditions of the keeper and his family; and then she plays with the white pebbles and the simple objects as she continues her stories, with all the concentration of a child absorbed in a game.
It is a riveting performance – and one that should not be missed.
Wendy Brazil - ArtSound FM 92.l7 (Mar 1, 2008)
The Keeper, based on true accounts of lighthouse keepers’ lives and woven into a composite tale of hardship, danger, and fearful gothic imaginings, casts light upon this time, charting the lives of those who chose to live in remote outposts along the coast. Chrissie Shaw, with engaging, gentle charm, tells the story of Connie, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter, and of life long ago, before the advent of automated lighthouses along the rugged, inhospitable coastline.
Director Penelope Bartlau, assisted by designer Imogen Keen, breathes unique life and atmosphere into the inanimate. Plain Babushka dolls are the sisters, a seashell, standing in the shifting crystals of sea salt upon a portentous bath-like structure, becomes Connie’s husband Bill, and a feather suggests a high society lady. Shaw, Bartlau and Keen, through their skilful illusory art, convincingly create the reality of that bygone era.
Shaw reveals herself as a captivating and unassuming storyteller, weaving narrative and instruction together to reveal the lighthouse keeper’s life. Appealing to young and old alike, The Keeper is a poignant reminder of the courage and endurance of the lighthouse pioneers. As a work imaginative educational drama, the show deserves to be picked up as a touring show to schools to bring a crucial part of this nation’s history into today’s classrooms.
Frank McKone - The Canberra Times (Mar 3, 2008)


Bring your own cushion and your favourite Gran’s bag’ invited the brochure for Greg Lissaman and Chrissie Shaw’s delightfully simple and gentle production of Gran’s Bag. I watched excited, curious and wide-eyed young children, clutching the hands of mothers, fathers or grandparents and hugging their favourite cushions with bags strapped to their tiny backs as they filed into the small studio of The Street Theatre. Before them, on a Persian rug stood a revolving table with a large red and mysterious carpetbag beneath a canopy of fairy lights.
‘Hellooo!’ A smiling face peered from behinds a curtain. Chrissie Shaw is the kind of Grandma that every child would wish to have. Cheerful, lively, fun-loving, slightly eccentric, alive with song and stories and able to spin her whirling cartwheels down the street. In an instant, friendly greeting turned into surprising mystery as the bag became a ‘treasure trove of secrets and small delights.’ Slowly, with all the expectant wonder of surprising sleight of hand, Shaw drew her audience, young and old alike, into her entrancing world of enchantment.
Director Lissaman lured the very young into a carefully devised and skilfully structured imaginary world. From the bag, Shaw drew “Gran’s Big Brag Book’ with colourful illustrations of her travels upon her magic carpet and souvenirs of her great adventures: a chunk of the great Wall of China, a bottle of sand from Egypt and a shell from the Torres Strait Islands. In the intimate world of the Street Theatre Studio, children and performer became as one, rapt in the mystery, wonder and surprise of Gran’s magical carpetbag.
From deep inside, other bags emerged – the little white bag with its collection of useful odds and sods such as screwdrivers, lipstick and mobile phone, which was suddenly swept away by a large truck while trying to cross the street, or the big cuddly beach bag that was left on a bus by mistake with sunglasses, hat, sun lotion and a sarong to shield Gran from the sun, and the bag of faraway China with its colourful dragon designs full of delicious ginger and salty plum snacks.
In a clever twist of personification, Gran’s bags become characters in the main story of this simple, yet ingenious tale. Lissaman and Shaw are magicians of their art. They know their audience well. Their theatre ran its fascinating course on a trajectory of expertly timed surprise, engrossing storytelling, laced with songs and a chorus for the audience to repeat.
Having introduced the transfixed audience to Grandma’s magical and surprising world from Bondi to China, and the stories of her bags, it was time to take the audience on their last intriguing and somewhat frightening adventure. It was time for a touch of the Gothic in this theatrical treat of sweet delights. Shaw had primed her audience with bewitching story and song. Now her tale could take a most unexpected turn with the gory story of the gaunt and flaming haired Baba Yaga, who devoured unfortunate bags.
Through some remarkable coincidence that can only happen in the world of fairytale, she had captured the white, the cuddly and the Chinese bag to have for her supper. Lissaman and Shaw realise the power of the traditional folk tale. It is a tale of danger, suspense, good versus evil and in the end the triumph of cunning and courage over self-interest and malevolence.
Turning themselves into threads, through Shaw’s clever sleight of hand, the bags wove themselves into a magic carpet that carried them far from the evil clutches of the wicked Baba Yaga and safely into grandma’s beautiful red carpetbag. No story would be complete without a moral, as Gran reminded her grandchild Little Snotty that ‘love is free’. The moral seemed to be tagged swiftly on the end, with scant reference throughout the travels on Gran’s magic carpet ride, but it is a moral worthy of any story. The four to seven-year-olds with their Mums and Dads and grandparents didn’t seem to need logic to justify its sudden appearance.
Gran’s Bag was a celebration of the power of the imagination, sensitively directed by Lissaman and performed with panache and charm by Shaw. Imogen Keen’s design of a bag that opened to reveal a Chinese scene or Sydney apartment block and her tasteful mood-enhancing setting created a focus for young eyes and surprising events. Hilary Talbot’s puppetry of a cartwheeling Gran and the menacing Baba Yaga, and the delightfully sewn miniatures drew one into a Lilliputian world, safe but magical, mysterious but enchanting. Gran’s Bag was a magical carpet ride into a child’s imagination and an adult’s memorable journey into the delightful world of storytelling. The production used illustrations drawn by children during research at the State Library of Queensland. Many of Gran’s adventures, songs and stories had been suggested by children. Gran’s Bag’s simplicity was appealing, its design bewitching and its performance endearing. Its future success is definitely in the bag!
Peter Wilkins - Lowdown (Aug 5, 2009)
Written and directed by Greg Lissaman. Presented by The Street Theatre and Small shows Performed by Chrissie Shaw. Street 2. July 11-16.
Flotsam and Jetsam is a gentle, captivating tale of life on a rocky outcrop for the families of the lighthouse keeper…in its own charming, simple and captivating way shines a beacon of bright light across its story-book world of delight.
As Nikki, solo performer Chrissie Shaw offers an utterly delightful, spirited and engaging performance. Designers and director, have created a wonderland of picture book illustration as a backdrop to (Chrissie) Shaw’s lively account of Nikki’s life at the lighthouse. Expressive in her animation, masterful in her story-telling and enchanting in her song, composed by her especially for this show, Shaw recreates a life of fun and laughter that had her young audience rapt in her accounts of gathering flotsam and jetsam to create a museum, of Harry the dog taunting the tiger snake, of her father’s ghost story about the dead body in the bathtub, of schooling at the kitchen table and a wild and windy Christmas that prevented Santa from making the crossing to the island. Every tale is unravelled with superb timing and child-like wonderment. Occasionally children would be invited to participate by guessing what lay inside a mysterious box, washed ashore from a ship or taking on the character of jetsam such as a teapot or seaweed, or creating a jellyfish. Neither token, not gratuitous, the participation heightened the magic of the performance as children and adults alike were drawn into the unique experience of a lighthouse keeper’s daughter.
Flotsam and Jetsam in its own charming, simple and captivating way shines a beacon of bright light across its story-book world of delight.
Peter Wilkins - LOWDOWN Magazine