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Print Version

Capital E National Arts Festival
Creative Producer – Stephen Blackburn
Director – Sara Brodie
Conductor – Grant Cooper
Composer – Gareth Farr
Inspired by the novel by – Witi Ihimaera

at Town Hall, Wellington
From 11 Mar 2013 to 15 Mar 2013

Reviewed by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 18 Mar 2013
originally published in The Dominion Post

If ever there was a production that encapsulates every aspect of performance art then Sky Dancer is it.

Labelled “An Epic Symphonic Story” the collaboration between Capital E National Theatre For Children and the NZ Symphony Orchestra premiered during Capital E's National Arts Festival For Children.

There are multi-media projections, amazing puppetry, actors in wonderfully choreographed sequences and of course the Symphony Orchestra all combining harmoniously to create what is a truly amazing piece of theatre. 

The idea for Sky Dancer comes from Witi Ihimaera's novel of the same name but rather than being an adaption, it is the imagery from the novel that has inspired Creative Producer Stephen Blackburn and Composer Gareth Farr, who along with Director Sara Brodie and Designer Penny Fitt, have created an exceptional piece of work.

Pre historic sea birds battle it out over the land with the land birds for food and resources over seen by a kuia (Tanea Heke).

Then it is the future and a young girl, Skylark (Chelsea Bognuda), is seen rescuing a white heron covered with plastic bags. She is taken in hand by the kuia and the future merges with the past as Skylark endeavours to bring peace to the sparing warriors (Manuel Solomon and Joe Dekkers-Reihana).

Although there are many elements of the production that are mystifying as to their meaning, the combination of all the artistic elements over comes any confusion that arises from the action, and the sheer originality and creativity of the piece makes it totally engaging.

Yet much of this must be attributed to the NZSO, which, under the baton of ex-pat Grant Cooper, played superbly, producing highly charged moments of powerful music that soared to great heights like the birds overhead but which then brought out great moments of tranquillity when necessary. 

The music continually underscored the actions of the puppets and actors and added much to the imagery created by them.  And the Conductor and players were not averse to joining in, periodically waving large white sheets of paper in the air to form flocks of birds flying over the stage making these but one of many memorable moments of this extraordinary piece.  
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See also reviews by:
 Thomasin McKenzie (age 12)
 John Smythe
 Lexie Matheson
 Elizabeth O’Connor