Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

03/03/2016 - 07/03/2016

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

16/02/2017 - 20/02/2017

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

25/09/2018 - 27/09/2018

Dunedin Fringe 2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2017 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Dunedin Arts Festival 2018

Production Details

presented by afterburner

Seven visual Haiku 

Returning to Dunedin after a sell-out Wellington season, afterburner’s Dark Matter is a unique experience of light, designed by award winning lighting designer Martyn Roberts.

The mysterious images in Dark Matter are on the edge of visibility where the imagination creates sights that could not possibly be true….or are they? The trick of the eye will feed the mind with inner phantasms and wraiths stirring in the darkness. The light will fascinate and enchant as it becomes a solid form in front of your eyes, only to vanish from whence it came.

Winner of Best of Fringe 2017 at the New Zealand Fringe (Wellington).

The dancers in Dark Matter are Leah Carrell and Megan Wilson.

“Martyn Roberts is without a doubt New Zealand’s master of painting darkness over darkness, of sculpting the darkness as if it were a thing of immense solidity and form.” – Theatreview


Afterburner presents a light and performance installation pushing the boundaries of seeing. Using low level light, projection and sound, Afterburner awaken the possibilities of the unseen, imagining realms beyond sight, just on the verge of seeing. Dark Matter is a visual experience changing how we might see space and light as well as challenging the senses to enter into the experience.

Afterburner comprises of longterm founder and award winning lighting designer Martyn Roberts, joined by Jeremy Mayall (sound) and dancers Katherine Kennedy and Megan Wilson. Afterburner have created installations and theatre since 2001 in Wellington, Dunedin and globally. Each project is unique with different artists coming together for each event. Dark Matter will be Afterburner’s 10th project.

Get tickets » 3, 4 and 7 March 2016


In February 2017 afterburner returns to Wellington with Dark Matter for the NZ Fringe. Set in a pitch black environment, Dark Matter explores what light can become when it is the central actor in space. Within a void of haze and ultra crisp sonics, you will be transported to a dreamworld of architectural beams, shafts and whirling vortexes. Immersed into a space that suspends time and thought.

afterburner was founded by award winning designer Martyn Roberts in 2001 with the intimate theatre installation Man on the Moon at BATS Theatre before moving on to create The Telescope for the 2002 STAB season (also at BATS), Fog and Mirrors with artist Marcus McShane, a series of light works around Wellington in 2005, winner of the Visual Art award at the Wellington Fringe Awards that year.

Other afterburner works include The Singularity directed by Miranda Manasiadis, Hubble created by Martyn Roberts, and the recent wairua=a=line=near, that premiered in the Puaka Matariki Dunedin festival 2016.

afterburner aspires to present high quality visual works with changing range of artists for each new installation. In Dark Matter lighting designer Martyn Roberts is joined by dancers Megan Wilson and Leah Carrell from Dunedin and Auckland with works from Hamilton based sound artist Jeremy Mayall.

“Most of the haiku are dreamlike, in that so little light illuminates the bodies of the dancers (Katherine Kennedy and Megan Wilson), it feels as if I am grasping at what I am seeing, trying to catch it before it disappears when I awake” Hannah Malloy, Theatreview, Dark Matter, March 2016

Winner ‘Best Film and Multi-Media Award’ – Dunedin Fringe Awards 2016

Winner ‘Best Design’ – Dunedin Fringe Awards 2016

Te Whaaea, 11 Hutchinson Road, Newtown, Wellington 6021
16-20 Feb 2017, 7.30pm.
18 Feb 2017, 5pm.
BOOKINGS: fringe.co.nz
TICKETS: $15/$11

Arts Festival Dunedin 2018

Allen Hall Theatre – return season
Tuesday 25 – Thursday 27 Sept, 7pm & 9pm
Thursday 27 Sept, Matinee 1pm
General Admission
Adult $30 / $25
Tertiary $25
School $15

Book here

Light, AV and space design: Martyn Roberts

Performers: Katherine Kennedy, Megan Wilson

Original sound design: Jeremy Mayall (with Martyn Roberts)

Theatre , Multi-discipline , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

50 mins

Beautiful, menacing, extraordinary, unique

Review by Allie Cunninghame 26th Sep 2018

afterburner’s presentation of Dark Matter is an exploration of abstraction, of sound, of visibility, and of the absence of light. Created by the award-winning lighting designer Martyn Roberts, Dark Matter is difficult to describe in a traditional review format. 

The performance begins in absolute darkness, with not even an exit light to illuminate the performance space. At the very edge of the eye’s perception, light is hinted at. At the point where I begin to wonder whether I am seeing a projection or hallucinating, the audience space is lit for a time. With the red seats and red curtains, and bare bulbs glowing from the ceilings, it feels as if we are in a David Lynch film. Darkness descends again. It reminds me of the time I was taken five kilometers under the earth into a gold mine – a total absence of light.

When the curtains open, two human figures (Leah Carrell and Megan Wilson) appear and reappear, like wraiths. They are never lit fully, and they exist in the darkness as hints of the human form, rather than as living bodies. The relighting of the theatre acts as a resetting after each of the seven ‘visual haiku’ – installations of sound, movement, and light.

Near the middle of the performance, the curtains part on a strobe which sends white rays into the audience, while a recording of a man’s voice plays – reminiscent of the recordings of Neil Armstrong radioing from space. In one ‘haiku’, straight lines bisect the stage, and the performers navigate them, mirroring each other.  In another, the performers move against a wedge-shaped projection and I am reminded of the shape of an ultrasound image, and the bodies that move within.

In the same way that the human figures are reminders of bodies, rather than their literal depiction, the sound reminds me of things with which we are familiar, but which are rendered so as to be mysterious and distant – a phone rings; a whistle sounds; a robotic woman counts numbers; goats walk by with bells around their necks; a piano’s keys are hit, heavily. It is beautiful, and it is menacing. At the end, as the lights come up on the red theatre one last time, a soundtrack of birds sings. Light is coming again. 

Another reason I am reminded of David Lynch is the tension that never lets up for the full 45 minute performance. I never feel relaxed. Partly this is due to the darkness, and partly due to the soundtrack, which menaces and rumbles. I feel that the tension makes me part of the performance – I am experiencing this with my whole self.

Even getting to the theatre is an adventure – after following along corridors and down stairs, we are told to climb the spiral steps of Allan Hall Theatre’s gothic tower. A warning to watch the wet step near the top seems like it could be scripted. We watch Dark Matter, but it feels as if we are inside the work as well, which is jarring, because while the performers seem so very far away from us, the tension, and the darkness, and the exploration of the senses binds us, in a way.

This show will not appeal to anyone who requires plot, or narrative, or representative imagery, but it will delight and fascinate audiences who are ready to explore their senses, and the way in which we perceive light. Dark Matter is extraordinary and unique. Go and see it. 


Make a comment

Sculpts darkness as if it were a thing of immense solidity and form

Review by Sam Trubridge 18th Feb 2017

A light, sound, and body installation:
Seven visual haiku in a dark void

A darkness so deep that I squint, unable to distinguish between what is imagined and what I think I can see moving there. Far off in the deep cavern of Te Whaea’s basement, a figure flickers in this most intense darkness, like the dimmest flame. Then it is extinguished. Was it real? Were they figures, or something else?

Pools of soft light create horizontal corridors that human shapes pause on the edge of. Always becoming or disappearing. Never fully in view. The flicker of an arm. A shadow loses its edges in the shadows, bleeding out like the blurry silhouette of a Giacometti painting until it is gone. Ink running into ink. 

Flashes of blue, crimson, and silver light in the cavities ahead of us – a deep cinema that recedes from the eye into the hollows of the architecture. Figures lurk, whip their limbs, and drift on many legs through this montage of spaces. They twist and deform like blurred polaroids in this smudgy and pulsing light – gorgons, many legged beasts, blurred spirits.

A single cone of warm amber, interrupted by a solid wall of light, close to us. Then back again. Vignettes in this sooty darkness where the body is reduced to figure only, a stance in the soft midnight. 

An iridescent gap of brightness opens slowly in front of us. A single flickering source that dazzles and dances over our rows of faces: a projector beam at the cinema, turned on its watchers, or the rays of light that crown our shadows when we swim over the deepest waters of a lake or ocean. On the speakers a crackling recording of astronauts prepare to set foot on the moon.

A silhouette meets its illuminated double on either side of a curtain of light: the intangible made into a solid, reflective surface. They pace along its margins, testing its edges until (with a flick) they trade places and disappear.

Empty spaces and walls of illuminated haze, like Colin McCahon’s darkest and most solitary moments in the landscape. A final ode to the fullness of air, to a solid emptiness, that with each change slowly approaches, the walls of light finally at our closest quarters – the emptiness is in us and around us, this dark empty matter is with us. 

This is Dark Matter, one of the few works I can think of that is authored and directed by a lighting designer, as a work about light. New Zealand has a very small canon of people working in this way, and even fewer who treat the medium as an art form that is expressive in its own right. Joe Hayes was incredibly innovative with the Court Theatre spaces in Christchurch; Bryan Caldwell brought a bright showmanship to lighting design in Auckland; Tony Rabbit’s set and lighting defined a whole era of theatre-making in Wellington; on stage and offstage, Marcus McShane loves shaping light like a craftsman loves wood; and Helen Todd has defined the inky worlds of phosphorescent darkness that make Mau Dance Company productions so memorable.

Helen Todd may do darkness well, and Vanda Karolczak also works well with the shape of light. But Martyn Roberts is without a doubt New Zealand’s master of painting darkness over darkness[1], of sculpting the darkness as if it were a thing of immense solidity and form. At times it presses upon the eyeballs, and visions appear in front of us: seemingly as fleeting and as intangible as the flashes that we each see when the eye is depressed by the thumb or heels of the hand.

The moody images in Dark Matter fade on the very edge of visibility, where we imagine things that could not possibly be true. Chimeras lurk here where the eye and the mind search desperately for some form or some edge to the shapeless notions that haunt the stage.

Dark Matter is a brave and spellbinding sequence of ‘visual haiku’ that make lightness and darkness into solid, tangible media. The bodies of performers Megan Wilson and Leah Carrell seem to float in this mass. Each short section is exquisitely crafted, where painterly care and precision produces a profound experience of staring into the void, and feeling the weight of it pushing back.

[1] See also the stunning production ink that Roberts made with choreographer Maria Dabrowska about ten years ago – a similar work of intense midnight and half-seen forms stitching movement through billows of darkness.  


Make a comment

Mesmerising art

Review by Hannah Molloy 05th Mar 2016

About 30 people are seated neatly in the tiny Allen Hall theatre on the University of Otago campus. I arrive with no real idea of what to expect – a friend has told me he’d enjoyed it the night before and “there were a few surprises,” but coming into the twilight from a bright summer evening via some very steep winding stairs is an apt precursor to this performance. Once we are seated, light, AV and space designer Martyn Roberts ambles across the front of the stage, commenting, “Oh look, I’m turning my phone off…” His sideways, slightly self-deprecating smile at the audience hints at a sense of partnership in the upcoming experience.

The lights fade, and by fade I mean the space drops into utter black darkness with no visual relief. The audience falls instantly silent, a hush which is sustained through the first three of the seven “visual haiku” before relapsing into a small hum of pleased chatter as the lights come up between each piece to reset our night blindness.

Born and bred to the city, I’m not used to that complete absence of light and find myself explaining to the rising panic in my chest that everything will be fine and just calm down and it won’t be forever. I become fascinated by the way my eyes seek any atom of light anywhere and the shapes that appear – I remember an acquaintance telling me years ago that one of the clever things about art is the natural desire for humans to make sense out of chaos and to seek familiar shapes in abstract forms. I think I scoffed at the time but I understand it better now.

Most of the haiku are dreamlike, in that so little light illuminates the bodies of the dancers (Katherine Kennedy and Megan Wilson), it feels as if I am grasping at what I am seeing, trying to catch it before it disappears when I awake. The dancers are wraithlike and there, then not there. Sometimes it seems like they are both on stage but it may have just be the haze. Sometimes they move like a sepia-toned mirror image, and sometimes are just present and then not.

Ranging from staccato scanner chatter to the gentle patter of a rainfall turning to a hailstorm, from atmospheric musings to silence, the soundscape (original sound design by Jeremy Mayall) increases to a crescendo at the third haiku and eases with rolling tides of aural connection to the light and gentle movement.

I find delight in other people’s cleverness and skill, in their imagination and curiosity about how far they can stretch something – a theory, a limb, a shaft of light. Watching a dissipated shaft of light  as particles sprinkling down from the roof to form into a crisp sharp line is fascinating. Watching the fullness and three-dimensionality of haze caught in a wedge of light is hypnotic – I almost couldn’t believe that it is insubstantial and not a sheet of billowing rippling satin. Perhaps it is.

Dark Matter is on again on Monday 7th March at 7pm and I think you should see it. This is a mesmerising piece of art and one that I feel privileged to have seen and review.



Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Waitematā Local Board