Theatre | Helly's Magic Cup | Ken Longworth

DROP OF OPTIMISM: Sarah Austin as Helly, in Helly’s Magic Cup. The play is being staged by Maitland’s Upstage Youth Theatre.
DROP OF OPTIMISM: Sarah Austin as Helly, in Helly’s Magic Cup. The play is being staged by Maitland’s Upstage Youth Theatre.

HELLY is a 12-year-old girl who lives on an Australian farm. It’s not the best of times. There has been a long drought, her father is silently suffering depression after falling off a tractor, leaving her mother with a huge workload, and, as the story begins, their aged beloved cow, Guinevere, drops dead.

Helly, though, is an optimist. She believes the soup tin she has dangling from a cubby house is a magic cup and dreams of a knight in shining armour coming to save the farm.

Helly is supported by her eager younger sister, Loo, who talks to insects and says they tell her what is about to happen. And while a knight does come, in the form of a dashing government agricultural scientist, it is Helly’s determination that helps to solve the family’s problems.

Rosalba Clemente’s play, Helly’s Magic Cup, is more grounded in realism than most plays for young audiences, with situations that will be familiar to the adults who accompany them. But the brightness of the two child characters and their game-playing blend neatly with the more serious scenes. And there are amusing sequences when Guinevere comes back to life in the children’s imaginations to offer advice.

Helly’s Magic Cup is being staged by Maitland’s Upstage Youth Theatre at the Upstage Studio, 317 High Street, Maitland, with five performances from September 13.

The 20-member cast, with predominantly young people among the performers aged 10 to 32, is being directed by Jessica Rose.

The story has six main characters, with Sarah Austin as Helly D’Oro, Gabby Coren and Ivy Paleologos alternating as Loo, Sophia Derkenne as their mother, Mary, James Wilkinson as father, Joe, Jack Maslen as the scientist, Nick Saunders, and Hannah Chapman and Yeshi Lodue alternating as the black-and-white Jersey cow, Guinevere.

Jessica Rose has a farming background, which has added to her appreciation of the situations the characters find themselves in. She notes that the farm structures that are part of the story’s setting have been made from recycled timber. And lighting and sound will help to create occurrences such as a fierce dust storm.

Two choral groups will indicate what is going through the children’s minds, with Helly’s chorus reflecting her dreams and Loo’s having the sound of insects.

The story also has surprises, such as a revelation by the scientist, that will have some adults reflecting on their lives.

Helly’s Magic Cup can be seen nightly at 7.30pm from Wednesday, September 13, to Saturday, September 16, plus an 11am Saturday matinee.

Tickets ($25, concession $20, family of four $80) can be booked through upstageyouththeatre.com.au.