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6 March, 2021

To Kill A Cassowary - Review: Rising from COVID like a Phoenix

There’s life, a heartbeat and a strong pulse in the JUTE this weekend. The Cassowary has done a phoenix and risen from the ashes of COVID and thrilled a packed and very appreciative house.

By Peter McCullagh

To Kill A Cassowary has returned with a very triumphant opening night.

Almost 12 months to the day, since the COVID curtain was drawn prematurely ending the Jute Theatre Company’s production of To Kill A Cassowary (2020) the flightless bird arose and took glorious flight.

The re-opening last night could not have been more welcomed. The audience rightly loved it; the jubilation was evident on the playwright’s face as Laurie Trott leapt to her feet along with hundreds attending the opening night as the closing scene faded.

This production was masterfully crafted by Director Bridget Boyle. The entire production team should be proud of their little slice of tropical paradise created onstage. We were transported to a magical place where nature and Amos (Steven Tandy) co-existed as one. A place and time where the pressures of life were simple, the fish are not biting, but the rubber thongs are still washing ashore.

The storyline is simple yet complex and relevant today on so many dimensions. Family disputes, atoning for past indiscretions and friction over who knows best.

Woven through this family dispute is the underlying thread, we need to protect our natural environment, the cassowaries and our wildlife. The message is strong but at no time was it preachy.

On-stage the dynamics between Amos and his daughter Paula, played by Natalie Taylor, are believable and engaging. Natalie wants to transform her father’s paradise, but there is so much more. She wants to be recognised not only as his daughter but also as a successful professional. There’s friction, outbursts of frustrated anger as well as deep genuine love and concern.

Natalie brings the big city project manager to life and seems to a fish-out-of-water in her father’s paradise.

Natalie Taylor

There is a kindly, grounded and very caring neighbour of Amos. Josie played by an amazing Ngugi Woman from North Stradbroke Island, Paula Nazarski.

Josie cares about her neighbour and worries he is not looking after himself. She provides not just meals for Amos but also an insightful take on his relationship, or lack of, with his daughter. Paula Nazarski is perfectly suited for this role. A credible and very engaging performance with a strong connection and chemistry with Amos (Steven) and Paula (Natalie).

How do you describe the amazing performance of Steven Tandy as Amos? It should be a gimme, 50 years in live theatre, thousands of performances, one would expect a great performance.

This production is not about one actor dominating the production, what Steven brought to the stage was an honest and warm connection with his co-stars, a credibility and softness combined with an energetic grumpy old git persona.

Steven was commanding, fragile, authentic and totally Amos. A soft caring face, passionate about his paradise and the cassowaries, and scared to let his guard down with his estranged daughter. We identified with Amos, we despaired at his attitude and we laughed at his wilful, wardrobe malfunction, where we see a quite different and unexpected side to the character.

Should North Queensland embrace this production? Absolutely yes. Not because it is local, but because it speaks to us all on so many levels. We see ourselves and our friends in the dynamics of the relationships on stage.

We confront many of the ecological issues we face daily, but most of all, it is beautifully written, extremely funny and magnificently brought to life by a performance and production team worthy of a capital city production.

To Kill A Cassowary continues next week and closes Saturday March 13. Tickets can be purchased from

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