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Print Version

NZ International Arts Festival
Children's Cheering Carpet

at Te Papa, level 2, Wellington
From 8 Mar 2008 to 16 Mar 2008
[1 hr]

Reviewed by John Smythe, 11 Mar 2008

Generating a quality of mystique can gild an otherwise ordinary lily or enhance the magic of a theatrical experience. In the case of the Children's Cheering Carpet, from Italy's Compagnia TPO, I think the latter applies.

The audience is ushered into the low-lit, sacred-feeling space in four groups of 20, asked to divest themselves of shoes, bags and other paraphernalia, and led to the two-tiered bench seats that face into the square performance space: children in front, others behind.

We 'played' in The Italian Garden (the other two options being The Japanese Garden and The Kurdish Garden), so the shadow image we looked at while waiting was of a cast iron gate. Its opening, and the covering of the ground with garden imagery - growth and paving - signals the start of the show.

Two dancers begin to explore the space, which responds to their stepping, rolling, dancing... Once a certain logic is established - mostly to do with their actions making images appear or disappear on any one of the 36 (I think) projected squares that grid the rubberised mat - children are gently invited to join the dancers and explore the idea themselves. In most cases, the dancers soon leave the children to it, until that sequence ends and it's time to sit once more.

To be technical: the square mat is a screen for a computer-generated data show projected from directly above; sensors beneath the mat send signals to the computer which responds accordingly, and the imagery changes in form and nature with each sequence.

As the stylised Renaissance garden moves through the four seasons, every child and a number of adults get the chance to join in. The capacity of children to intuit what's needed is nicely judged. So too is the need to break it up with more formalised sequences performed by the dancers. 

It is very much a shared experience, and unique in its detail to the people participating in any one show.
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