This week we’re revisiting a more recent, but no less memorable Theatre Works production: THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE, presented by Little Ones Theatre. Little Ones Theatre have a long and fruitful history of partnering with Theatre Works for the presentation of their camp, kitsch, and erotically charged works. THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE was a worthy addition to their fascinating and expanding repertoire.
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE brought a haunting, adult reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s dark and melancholic fairytale to the stage. Exploring the power of love, art, beauty and song, THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE followed the journey of an effervescent nightingale who, upon hearing the cries of a young student desperately pining for love, takes it upon herself to play Cupid and find the perfect red rose for the student to give his sweetheart. Upon her quest however, the nightingale is confronted with an earth shattering choice; trade her life and voice for a red rose, or wallow in the misery of eternal heartbreak.
Complete with all the biting wit, sweeping romanticism and decadence that is synonymous with Wilde, Director Stephen Nicolazzo delivered a sharp 45 minutes of drama that combined narration, physical theatre and opera to insightfully highlight the idealistic and cynical perspectives of adult longing. The work traversed time, space and emotion paying homage to both the sentimentality of classical romanticism and modern day heart ache; the inclusion of a Smith’s song shortly after a Mozart aria created a timeless feel to the works sprawling emotional landscape.
Jennifer Vuletic gave a tour de force performance as the Nightingale, making expert use of her stunning voice and mesmerising stage presence. In an interview with Theatre Works, Vuletic gushed about her experience working with the team at Little Ones, expressing “[they] breathe the same rarefied air and their hearts beat to some extraordinary rhythm that is not to be found in any other group of creatives I’ve worked with.”
Vuletic received a subsequent nomination at the 2019 Green Room Awards for her performance alongside Katie Sfetkidis for her evocative lighting design. Critics cited similar acclaim for Vuletic, with The Age describing her presence as “surreal and statuesque” and The Australian declaring her performance to be “a feast.”
On reflecting upon the show as a whole, critics were equally glowing with many praising the striking visuals and excellent creation of atmosphere and mood.
Tim Byrne of Time Out gave the work four stars stating:
★★★★ “Director Stephen Nicolazzo has constructed an exquisite ode to Romanticism in this adaptation, as detailed and precise as anything he’s put on stage before. Nicolazzo is the ideal theatre maker to bring these fairy tales, quivering and beautiful, back into the light.”
Liddy Clark of Stage Noise was equally glowing:
★★★★ “The ingredients that make up this production are a recipe for brilliance. I was captivated. Keeps your mind ticking over. A must.”
Bradley Storer of Theatre Press rounded out the praise:
“Little Ones Theatre capture the bittersweet and painfully beautiful nature of Oscar Wilde’s tale with great artistry and passion for the text…so as the company plans ahead for an adaptation of a third story in the future, we can only hope for more!”
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE was the second in a proposed trilogy of adult retellings of Wilde’s stirring works for children. The Happy Prince (which was presented at La Mama in 2017 and the firs iteration of the trilogy) followed the relationship between a prince and a swallow, convinced to deliver jewels to the poor until each of their hearts were broken.
When the final gem in the trilogy finally sees the light of day, buy a ticket and do all you can to bathe in the brilliance of what will no doubt be another gorgeous and unique ode to all things sensuous, dark and romantic. (Fingers crossed that it’s at Theatre Works the work finds its home!)
If you would like to dip your toe further into the work of Little Ones Theatre, take a look at their stunning promo reel encapsulating their fast growing and highly reputable body of work.
THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE FULL CAST AND CREW
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER
SOUND DESIGNER AND COMPOSER
Photo Credit: Pia Johnson