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Print Version

Auckland Fringe 2013
Directed/Written by Markus Hofko & Karin Hofko
presented by Auckland Fringe Festival

at The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
From 24 Feb 2013 to 10 Mar 2013
[Sundays only - 45 mins]

Reviewed by Anna Stillaman, 24 Feb 2013

The musicians and performers of Mr Sackman have put together a visually intriguing performance that lives up to its reputation as surreal and bizarre.

Written and directed by Markus Hofko & Karin Hofko, this musical play takes us on a journey that jostles between reality and fantasy – blending our world with another strange and metaphorical world that Mr Sackman inhabits.  

The play begins before the audience enters the room, and before the lights are down.  As we meander to our seats, the play's Ringmaster is greeting us, jamming with his musicians, chatting about riddles, prancing and dancing, so that just as you start to wonder when they are going to start, you realise that it has already begun.

There is no story in the traditional sense; rather we are taken on a metaphoric journey through some of life's questions and tragedies.  Just as we think we might be gaining some kind of understanding about what is going on, the play shifts tack and we are thrust into something even more bizarre.

There is much expectation surrounding the arrival of Mr Sackman.  When he does appear, he is an isolated and uncertain creature.  Notably, he speaks in gibberish that not even the other characters understand.  Ultimately we never discover who Mr Sackman is.  The sense is that he represents Everyman, journeying through the world, picking up bits and pieces, and struggling to be understood by those he encounters.  Along the way, he inadvertently affects the lives of those around him. 

As a performance, Mr Sackman blends music, movement and theatre, making it difficult to ascribe any particular genre to it.  Musically, it is alive with tension.  The seven-piece ensemble work cohesively to create a distracted and ‘disorganised' sound, but always blending together to remind us that there is order in their chaos.

The set is simple, with striking use of a screen where silhouettes, colour and scenes are played out.  Elizabeth Wilson's truly excellent costumes evoke a sense of ‘ragbag fiesta' in their design with no unnecessary fluff.

The play concludes with a moving dance by Sarah Houbolt eliciting release, surrender, freedom and elation.

Despite everything Mr Sackman does so well, the performance doesn't quite deliver on the tension and anticipation that it so expertly inspires.  While one could argue that this is yet another metaphor about life, I found myself wanting more.  The play hums along, but lacks real dramatic shape, and the performances and script feel a little loose at times. 

That said, if you can abandon yourself (for about 45 minutes) to a visual and aural journey, and are happy to make of the imagery what you will, you'll certainly enjoy yourself.

As I watched the audience emerge from the theatre, they were smiling, and I heard one woman comment that it was “quite cool”.
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