Niebelheim, Christchurch Arts Centre, Christchurch

27/03/2010 - 11/04/2010

Production Details

New Christchurch show brings puppets to grown-ups  

Any theatre company that declares itself ‘The Notional Theatre Company of New Zealand,’ not only displays its wit upfront, but also its determination to be thoughtfully different. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Tablo.

Brainchild of its two artistic directors, John Cohen-Du Four and Simon van der Sluijs, Christchurch-based Tablo is the first theatre company in New Zealand to focus solely on puppetry and mask for grown-ups.

But these are not the kind of puppets you might remember from your childhood. Tablo’s world is inhabited by characters who are off-beat and eccentric – bent, if not broken, by life, and living in their own strange worlds.

Drawing on the European-inspired tradition of puppet and mask theatre for adult audiences, Tablo pushes the boundaries of theatrical experience with impressionistic, humorous, dreamlike, even slightly disturbing, pieces, presented with no dialogue but a strong reliance on sound, music and staging effects.

Tablo’s current show, BOX, combines puppetry, mask, film and a powerful soundscape, to present a surreal exploration of the emotional container of one man’s life. It’s a short, sharp, half-hour theatrical shot in the arm – guaranteed to enhance weekend visits to Christchurch’s Arts Centre.

Impressive collaboration

Review by Lindsay Clark 28th Mar 2010

Half an hour is not long in theatre terms. Most works are just through the expository scene setting business and moving into the development phase, but down under the ground in the South Quad, the invitation to be part of a wildly imaginative experience starts at the first step.

That means down into the deep black world where Tablo launch their puppet and mask story. The usher mimes elaborately but does not speak. His(?) head is a chair and box affair and the dimly visible set another box (television), squarely facing an armchair, draped with a black cat whose green eyes now and then catch the light. So it is all a bit different and the necessarily small audience is definitely intrigued.

Potters in an elderly blimp like fellow, manoeuvred by two almost invisible puppeteers whose presence we quickly dismiss. The cat is petted before he plumps into the chair, his mask face a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and a benevolent bloodhound. He finds the remote and engages the television set.

What follows, once he has located a boxing match, leads us away into the surreal and some highly imaginative mimed sequences where projection, live movement, more puppetry and above all a supportive soundscape combine to hold the attention and tease the mind.

Such worlds do not come easily and the ‘cast’ of five presents a disciplined team whose collaboration is impressive. Neatly linked by image or reference each section has its own tension and conundrums so that the time passes very quickly.

As that rare bird, European-inspired puppet and mask for adults, the performance confirms this space as one where exciting and fresh theatre making can happen and Tablo’s future works will be awaited with pleasurable anticipation. 
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