We’re all about promoting the voice of youth and providing a platform for young people to share their experiences and develop their critical voice through our Ambassadors program. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of Canberra Youth Theatre or its staff.
Jade Breen, one of our 2023 Ambassadors, reviews New Owner by The Last Great Hunt at Canberra Theatre Centre.
A heart-warming tale of love, loss, and a little puppy’s big adventure, New Owner, created by Arielle Gray and Tim Watts, tugged on all my heart strings. Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre, the simple 50-minute production had me laughing, crying, and clapping along with all the children in the audience.
An energetic young puppy waits patiently, dreaming of the day it will be chosen from the animal shelter. The recently widowed Mabel is lonely, longing to fill the hole in her heart. It’s a match made in heaven, but after a joyous union, both are suddenly alone again.
What struck me about this work was the total accessibility of it. Whether it’s your first experience in a theatre, or you’re a seasoned veteran, this show had a wonderfully universal joy to it. As you enter the space for the first time the two puppeteers take centre stage, stepping out of their roles to welcome everyone in. The introduction highlighted to the younger audience members that we were about to go on a journey together and parts of that might be scary, and parts of it might be sad, but identified the theatre as a safe space for them to feel and validate those emotions.
New Owner contained beautiful moments such as the puppy’s first night with his human, or even the comedic scenes between the two dogs. These moments were very engaging, and I felt myself and the adults giggling along with the younger audients, however at times they left something to be desired. The pace of the show felt quite fast at times and perhaps more time to indulge in those beats could have been more effective to the overall themes of the play.
The dynamic between the physical puppetry and animated work is nothing short of mastery. The relationship between the crafts became synthesised to the point that at times I lost track of which was which. This fusion of mediums was highly effective in drawing the audience in and completely immersing us in the world of the show. The puppeteering in itself was magical, and I found a childlike joy in the dogs coming to life with a slight wrist or finger movement.
For a children’s show, I was surprised to see a darker story line threaded through the narrative. I found myself on the edge of my seat, rooting for the dogs as they navigated a sinister pound, and tearing up toward the end of the show. The balance between the darker and some of the happier moments in the show was great to see, particularly in children’s theatre. Targeted at audiences aged 7+, New Owner confronts themes and realities that would be easy to gloss over but the recognition of these in the work gave a validating and mature tone to the performance. Too often children’s theatre and media lack the emotional depth demonstrated for older audiences. Of course, there is a time and place for this kind of theatre, but to see a production not underestimate the emotional capacity of younger audiences and instead facing them head on in a safe environment is highly commendable.
Created by Arielle Gray and Tim Watts
Performers Tim Watts & Arielle Gray
Design & Gadgets Anthony Watts
Original Music Composition Rachael Dease
Puppet Design & Construction Chloe Flockart
International Creative Intern: Soren Hojgaard
Tour Manager / Understudy Shane Adamczak
Produced by The Last Great Hunt
Canberra Theatre Centre
8–11 March 2023
Jade Breen is a proud nonbinary artist with experience in theatre, film, and circus. Their favourite roles include Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird (Canberra Rep 2019), Flounder in The Little Mermaid (Ickle Pickle 2020), and Gillian in Dags (Canberra Youth Theatre 2022). Aside from theatre, Jade has recently dived into filmmaking, their short film She/…They? winning best under 18 and best student film at the Lights Canberra Action film festival. For years now, Canberra Youth Theatre has become their second home and they have loved the opportunity to develop their craft amongst such a passionate and committed group of young people.