DUST PILGRIM – A Tale of Freedom

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

04/06/2015 - 13/06/2015

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

23/06/2016 - 24/06/2016

Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

01/07/2016 - 01/07/2016

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

07/07/2016 - 09/07/2016

SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill

02/05/2018 - 03/05/2018

SOUTHLAND FestivaL of the Arts 2018

Production Details

Directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan

Red Leap Theatre


From the Award-Winning team that brought you The Arrival comes the highly anticipated new work by Red Leap; Dust Pilgrim – A Tale of Freedom.

Embracing their trademark magic-realism style, this visceral and physical performance will capture the imagination and hearts of Auckland and Whangarei audiences in the intimate spaces of Q’s Loft, 4th – 13th June and a special preview at Capitaine Bougainville Theatre 22nd May, Whangarei.

“…Red Leap Theatre could perform imaginative feats that are faster than a locomotive and leap tall buildings in a single bound…” Theatreview 

Trapped in a life built on dust and shifting sands a young woman burns her world to the ground in a daring bid for freedom. Inspired by the limitless literary imaginings of the world of magic realism (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende), the award-winning Red Leap Theatre return to their hand-made beginnings with an intimate yet epic tale of one woman’s fight for freedom in a world where dreams and premonitions are as real as the wind.

“…theatre to stir the soul and make the spirit fly” NZ Listener 

A stellar cast of three highly skilled performers bring this enchanting to tale to life; Alison Bruce (The Almighty Johnsons, Calendar Girls), Ella Becroft (Coverband, Power Rangers Megaforce) and Tom Eason join an exciting new team of collaborators including the award winning Thomas Press creating sound.

After the grandeur of The Arrival and touring life that has catapulted them onto the international stage, Red Leap Directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan are going back to their roots and focusing on delivering a touring work to their fiercely loyal New Zealand audiences. Parker once again turns her hand to the magical making of her famed puppets to create a unique theatrical experience.

Red Leap Theatre is New Zealand’s leading image and movement based Theatre Company established to develop artists, audiences and the discipline of devised physical theatre. Artistic Directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan have delivered two Auckland Arts Festival commissions – The Arrival in 2009 and Paper Sky in 2011. These works have been highly successfully both at home and abroad touring to overseas centres including Sydney, South Korea, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. The company have also been the recipients of eight Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards.

Friday 22 May 2015, 7.30pm
Capitaine Bougainville Theatre, Rust Avenue, Whangarei
Tickets: $15 – $30 (Booking fees may apply)
Bookings through Ticketek http://premier.ticketek.co.nz/

Thursday 4 June – Saturday 13 June 2015, 7.30pm (No Monday show)
Sunday 7 June, 6pm show
Q Theatre, Queen Street, Auckland CBD
Tickets: $15 – $40 (Booking fees may apply)
Bookings through Q Theatre: http://www.qtheatre.co.nz or 09 309 9771



DUST PILGRIM freeze frame open rehearsal
DATE | Saturday 18th June
TIME | 11.30PM – 1.30pm
WHERE | Corban Estate Art Centre

DATE | Thursday 23rd – Friday 24th June
TIME | 7.00pm
WHERE | The Playhouse Theatre, Knighton Road
TICKETS | http://www.waikato.ac.nz/academy/events/theatre/dust-pilgrim

DATE | Friday 1st July
TIME | 7pm
WHERE | Theatre Royal, TSB Show Playhouse
TICKETS | http://www.ticketmaster.co.nz/

DATE | Thursday 7th– 9th July
TIME | 7pm
WHERE |Te Whaea
TICKETS | http://redleaptheatre.co.nz/

Dust Pilgrim South Island Tour

Red Leap are excited to be touring Dust Pilgrim – A Tale of Freedom to the South Island in May 2018.

Amanda Billing (Shortland Street, Sensing Murder), Tama Jarman (Shortland Street, White Face Crew) and Ariaana Osborne (Toi Whakaari graduate) make up the stellar cast that brings this enchanting tale to you.

Dust Pilgrim is an intimate coming of age tale of a young woman’s fight for freedom in a world where dreams and premonitions are as real as the wind.

Please join us to see our wonderful new cast in this magical piece of theatre.

2018 Tour Dates

SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill
Wed 2 May, 7:00pm
Thu 3 May, 11:00am (Schools’ show) & 7:00pm
Book Tickets

7  May 6pm
Book Tickets

11 May
Book Tickets

Ella Becroft
Alison Bruce
Tom Eason

Sound by Thomas Press

Theatre , Puppetry , Physical ,

1 hr

An audio-visual treat that respects the intelligence of its audience

Review by Ben Knowles 03rd May 2018

Red Leap Theatre’s travelling production of Dust Pilgrim – A Tale of Freedom is a spectacle to behold. It should not be missed.  

After a series of runs in the North Island in 2015 and 2016, Dust Pilgrim finally makes it to the South Island, visiting Invercargill, Dunedin, and Nelson. Reviews of previous performances are also available on Theatreview. This version of the show features new performers bringing their own twist to the show. I am reviewing the 2 May 2018 performance in Invercargill’s SIT Centrestage venue. 

Panuelo (Ariaana Osborne) and her mother (Amanda Billing) live in a barren dust-filled land. It has not rained since Panuelo’s birth and the disappearance of her father (Tama Jarman). Dust Pilgrim follows Panuelo as she flees the iron grip of her cruel mother and journeys out into the desert. The plot emits feelings reminiscent of an age-old South American fairytale, with a touch of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince.

Osborne’s performance as Panuelo is intimate and revealing. She interprets the character as introverted and shy. Despite minimal dialogue, Osborne, a recent Toi Whakaari graduate, has a strong physicality and her moments with her fellow cast members are heartfelt.

The mise-en-scène in this work is simply gorgeous. The cast and crew expertly weave sound, dance, lighting, and – most notably – sand to tell the story. The set is minimalistic in the extreme, to its advantage. The music by Thomas Press is superb, notably giving sentiments of Detroit house music at the beginning and progressing to more traditional elements as the plot continues. Sound cues are on point and in sync with the performers.

The dance is particularly effective in – to use a theatre cliché – showing, and not telling. The three performers expertly convey emotion, character, and meaning through their movements. The lighting is dynamic and smooth with some surprisingly innovative uses of lights on the stage floor. 

And the dust… Let me start by saying that cleaning up after the show must be a time consuming exercise. Sand is used to convey dust, walls, gunshots, cigar smoke, and more plot elements. This is the show’s ‘gimmick’ and it is used extensively. It starts off with a neat square boundary of sand, which is gradually smeared, added to, and thrown to create a map of the stage by the ending. The players lie, dance, and bathe in the sand throughout the performance. For any audience member with even a passing interest in innovative theatre technique, the creative and multi-faceted use of sand on-stage makes this show a must-watch. 

Thematically, Dust Pilgrim explores ideas of feminism, entrapment, and honesty. In the #metoo world, scenes involving a sexual and pushy business magnate invoke a Weinstein-esque reference in this reviewer. The men that Panuelo encounters on her journey come with their own issues, and she must overcome them. However, Panuelo’s hardships don’t come solely at the hands of men. Her own mother is also abusive for reasons that become considerably more complex than first appear. 

Dust Pilgrim is a rare achievement that melds its elements to create an audio-visual treat while respecting the intelligence of its audience. Your eyes and ears will thank you for your attendance.


Make a comment

Dusty yes, but fresh and original

Review by Ewen Coleman 08th Jul 2016

One of the most creative and innovative theatre groups currently operating in New Zealand, especially in the area of physical theatre, is Red Leap Theatre from Auckland.

Previously seen in Wellington at an International Arts Festival with The Arrivals, they are now back as part of a North Island tour, with a pared down and somewhat darker production, but a no less exciting one, called Dust Pilgrim, currently playing at Te Whaea: NZ National Dance and Drama Centre. 

As one can imagine, dust is an essential element of the production, more specifically, the dust created by fine sand, which the stage becomes awash with during the show. [More]


Make a comment

The truth works

Review by John Smythe 08th Jul 2016

A cursory glance at the publicity for Dust Pilgrim – A Tale of Freedom suggests a young woman’s quest for liberty simply involves her running away from her tyrannical mother to join the proverbial circus. I confess I felt puzzled that a devising group of four women and one man would go with that tired old ‘blame the mother’ cliché.

“But things are never as they seem,” the media release concludes (it always pays to read to the end). “Panuelo must stop running and face up to her mother to truly set herself free.” And that’s the point: the truth will set you free.

There is a timeless, universal and very human syndrome at the heart of Red Leap Theatre’s remarkable ‘magic realism’ production. Clad in a dinky little hoop underskirt and condemned to the daily grind of domestic duties, Panuelo (Ella Becroft) yearns for a father she barely remembers while her Mother (Alison Bruce) does nothing but suck on a fat cigar and gaze into the distance. Adorned with a bustle, fascinator and fan, Mother comes across as a frontier town bordello madam.

Their isolation within an arid desert is juxtaposed with Panuelo’s romanticised idea of her Father (Tom Eason) being at sea, although his hat is more Indiana Jones than high seas adventurer. The dusty dryness, made real with judiciously managed quantities of a very fine (silicone-free) sand, is a potent visual metaphor against which life-sustaining wetness can only be dreamed of.

Panuelo’s yearning is poignantly captured in fleeting moments amid the toil – and the danger. Dust on the breeze may seem weightless but trapped in tight little bags on the end of swinging ropes, it’s potentially lethal. Think psychological impact; premonitions of something to be avoided: this is very much a ‘territory of the mind’.

Wrangling those ropes is just one of the many staging tasks the three actors and the mechanical operator, Jamie Blackburn, perform to manifest Panuelo’s subjective reality. Tiny illuminated models represent dwellings. And large boxes, ingeniously configured, play a big part – especially when she becomes involved in a highly dubious carnival were illusion and delusion thrive.

Tom Eason’s surreal carnival showman is a wonderful contrast to his idealised father figure and the excitable nun he plays alongside Alison Bruce, who also excels in a number of deftly crafted cameos which punctuate the inexorable revelation of the Mother’s story.  

At the heart of the narrative, Ella Becroft’s physically dextrous Panuelo compels our empathy, first in her trapped state then as the innocent abroad, navigating emotional and literal peaks and troughs in her pilgrimage.  

Poppy Serano’s set design, almost as active as the actors, is dynamically augmented with Rachel Marlow’s lighting and Thomas Press’s sound composition – both operated in performance by Marlow. And Charlie Baptist’s minimalist costume designs are exquisite.

The ending is powerful and the final image is delicious. There’s no denying it: the truth works.

Was mother right to protect her daughter from it until she was ready, or was her withholding abusive? Does fearing something make it more likely to happen? It’s always good to be left with such questions in the wake of a show.

The post-show buzz in the foyer at Te Whaea proves everyone feels stimulated and it’s interesting to note that different people relate the story to a diverse range of personal experiences and current events in the wider world. Dust Pilgrim speaks to us in many ways.

I’m told this project began in the hope rights could be secured to adapt a story by Gabriel García Márquez but that was not to be. Nevertheless they retained the Colombian flavour with the imagery, characterisations and accents, not least because they wanted to locate their devised story in a literal desert as well as a metaphorical one. Fair enough. But I do look forward to a time when Red Leap Theatre will draw on our own cultural landscape to create a universally relevant work. Put it this way: the two New Zealand books that have won the Booker Prize (The Bone People and The Luminaries) are firmly rooted in New Zealand soil. That’s further proof that the truth works.


Make a comment

Dust Pilgrim is innovative, visually arresting – but not everyone got it

Review by Taryn Utiger 03rd Jul 2016

Dust Pilgrim is different. Really different. After the show some said they were transfixed, it was fabulous, unique and even cathartic. Others said it was strange, they didn’t know if they liked it, or even if they got it.

The New Zealand work, co-directed by Julie Nolan and Kate Parker, tells the tale of Panuelo, a young girl who is trapped in a repetitive world, run by her fearsome mother. [More]


Make a comment

Inspirational, odd, moving, challenging and full of inventive curiosity

Review by Holly Shanahan 02nd Jul 2016

Dust is a gorgeous metaphor; it speaks of entrapment and desolation. It has the potential to create mystery, surprise and oppression through haze, explosion and ‘rain’. It’s lightness or weight can enclose us or bear down on us.  It is a wonderfully theatrical material. 

Red Leap really ‘DO’ imagery and physicality, and Dust Pilgrim doesn’t disappoint in their trademark style. That we have a physical theatre company in New Zealand of this calibre is something to be incredibly proud of. This is a world-class company, and their work touring to smaller centres means Kiwis can see International standard work right here at home, made right here at home. Brava for that.

Panuelo lives as a slave to her tyrannical cigar-smoking mother in their rain-less barren, dreamlike world, in a drought bought on, as her mother claims, by Panuelo’s birth.  Panuelo runs their home like clockwork. It is almost as though they live on the inside of a clock itself – it is a home of angular paths, ritualised movement and machinated pendulums of dust.

The establishing sequence of this life is both beautiful and grim. Each ‘chore’ is depicted in stylised physical action and repeated, with literal elements absent and present at different times, revealing as the sequence goes on: the beating desert wind at the door, the curtains hiding longing looks outside, the dishes Panuelo faithfully cleans, and eventually the presence of her tyrant mother perched at the centre of it all. In a photograph on the wall sits her dead father, poised in the frame she cleans faithfully every day.

Seamlessly moving into the territory of dreams, Panuelo uncovers a ‘secret’ that impels her to rebel and escape her trapped, guilt-ridden life, in search of the truth, the rain and freedom.  It is the ghost of her father that ambles out of the suitcase she discovers, a towering puppet of bones brought to life.

She stages her escape, destroying the ‘house’ and running until she collapses in a heap. The intricacies of performance throughout this scene (and indeed other sequences also) are difficult to put to words. Simple running fingers down a hill of cloth, the gestus[i] of Panuelo sprinting with a repeated expressionistic leg movement, all three performers playing out in unison the last moments before her collapse – it is a beautiful and affecting piece of work which shows how physical theatre can achieve the desired affect extremely distinctly. Many would wonder how you can possibly get such a strong feeling from a seemingly strange series of images and movement.

Panuelo reaches a nunnery, and a circus, where a flamboyant vaudevillian magician flaunts his show in wonderful style. The transormative set of boxes here gives scope for some magic moments of transition and is another striking visual element, which manages to keep in with the bare set of dust, delicate crepe like paper, and pulleys. 

Eventually, Panuelo realises that her past will only catch up with her, and she is forced to face her mother to achieve absolution.

The entire show is mesmerising, and curious. The cast of three make the physical performance look easy, which it certainly is not.  Ella Becroft is extraordinary. She is controlled in one moment, fluid in the next, and commands her physicality totally, she is among the best I have seen. Alison Bruce’s mother and Tom Eason’s magician, too, are well drawn characters, but it is the entire ensemble work, not one particular role, that stamps these performers as exceptional. The discrepancy of size between Becroft and Eason is a nice bonus image-wise.  

The ending, unfortunately, feels abrubt. I want more time and impact from the moment of revelation and freedom. It feels rushed, as if the show has finished ten or fifteen minutes too soon, or as if the rest of the work was so thoroughly devised that they ran out of time to complete the ending to the same level. I hope it is something they are continuing to develop, as the rest of the work is so glorious. 

To be honest, however, I don’t really care it ends a little quickly, I am in a euphoric trance of beauty, light and theatrical magic. I love Red Leap, their work is inspirational, odd, moving, challenging and full of inventive curiosity. I could watch this for hours.

I hope the regional audiences take the opportunity to see this work, and let it move them, without questioning or comparing it to their preconceptions of ‘theatre’ may be. There are too many beautiful images and stunning moments to mention them all, I only encourage you to go along and let your imagination be carried away with Red Leap’s Dust Pilgrim

[i] Gestus is an acting technique developed by the German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht. It carries the sense of a combination of physical gestures and “gist” or attitude. It is a means by which “an attitude or single aspect of an attitude” is revealed, insofar as it is “expressible in words or actions.” (Wikipedia)


Make a comment

Authentic, empathetic, fresh and enchanting

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 24th Jun 2016

The theatre is packed this evening, we are sitting in wait of the first night of Red Leap Theatre Company’s devised work, Dust Pilgrim: a story of entrapment, escape and the freedom of the truth. None of these are new concepts in storytelling, in fact as the show opens here we meet a Cinderella of sorts – in the sands of dry desert nowhere – at a guess, somewhere in South America if the name of our Cinders, Panuelo (Ella Becroft), is anything to go by. Panuelo lives in the vice like grip of an overbearing mother (Alison Bruce).

I watch our little hero Panuelo doing her seemingly endless chores, twitching in robotic dance, dodging swinging sandbags which are the first of much inspired use of aerial space. The simple rope and sack creations serve to symbolize the swinging hands of father time, at other times punctuating stage spaces and at other times creating an ephemeral sense of suspension and danger to Panuelo, all while her tiny face is filled with terror and expectation. I find myself quite quickly nestled in her palm as she progresses through her emancipation story.

Mother is a tyrant, no question. Her status is confirmed by cunning use of third player Thomas Eason who carries her on his shoulders, creating such an accurate sense of overbearing that I get chills – sometimes my own mother appears to me this way!

Panuelo’s father is absent. She tells us he went to sea and never returned, something she presents as being her fault, which is an all too familiar scenario – a child feeling guilt for the irresponsible actions of an adult. It hasn’t rained since he left. She doesn’t speak often, but when she does, she adds huge value to the moment and the story – and I must say, I like the word-economy.

At this point I start to wonder how on earth these three obviously physically fit actor-dancers manage to perform through all of the dust, it feels suffocating from where I am sitting, but then – I get it. The dust serves as an even stronger endorsement of the themes around entrapment, as if serving to bury our players alive perhaps; they are choking to live, weighted in the heavy sands of half-truths. 

The first real sense I get that something is awry is in an extremely well executed dream (or premonition) sequence. The use of dance and puppetry is smartly and so delicately interwoven, I get a very real sense of Panuelo’s overlord mother, and her ‘baggage’ – especially as this all emanates from within a dusty old suitcase. I love it, because to me it shows a deep sense of humour and playfulness about the piece, which lightens such a heavy journey.

Panuelo is driven by her premonition to literally make a run for it. Tricky and smart use of micro scenery and a mixture of up stage and back stage tricks of the eye bring a real sense of the distance she travels. Again the centre of the aerial space becomes the set of the next location: an abbey, complete with wide-eyed smiling nuns in tricky habits who welcome Panuelo. I get a fleeting sense of safe haven, however foolish it might be to think it. The door is bolted shut behind her. Until mother arrives. Panuelo’s habit becomes a butterfly net, snaring her as she fights (eventually successfully) against being towed home. 

On the run again, Panuelo is adopted by a travelling circus. Again, the themes of imprisonment and entrapment are played out. This is a lovely part of the show – Thomas Eason plays a charming, lisping ringmaster who, reminiscent of the American Depression-era prairie touring ‘carnivale’, is delivering his ‘infomercial tease’ for the full-length show.

As there is no set to speak of, the stage suddenly feels very crowded with plywood crates, which are used masterfully to house the freaks and deliver the illusions. I am impressed, for it is all that is needed, there is no tipping point of ridiculousness, and the scene is highly entertaining while also very grim and sad.

It is clear that there has been no shortage of thoughtful direction by Julie Nolan and Kate Parker. I also get a sense of strong, smart dramaturgy by Paolo Rotondo and I cannot help but feel the influence also, of development cast member Rob Mokoraka – both men are skilled writers and actors in their own right – and my experience is that they excel in bringing an inquisitive, ‘sideways’ perspective and playful influence to a piece.

So, within the circus troupe we see manacles and cages, and there is no mistake of the message: even roaming the countryside, these players are not free. There is a soul-touching dance between the angel (Thomas Eason) and Panuelo; much power is given to their fancy romantic exchange. 

As it goes we learn that while some yearn for freedom, others prefer the comfort of confinement. Certainly this can only bring us to one place, which is not to say that the show’s end becomes predictable, I certainly did not see it coming, but there must be a resolution to all good stories. The resolution here is consummate, and as the show closes on a crying sky, so there are tears in my eyes. This is a beautiful story, well told and sensationally played. I am impressed and more than a little envious. 

An audience member in front of me asks her companion, “How do people think of this stuff?” Hers is but to wonder, good question though it is. 

From my own, mere mortal perspective, a great deal of thought has gone into all aspects of this production. Indeed Rachel Marlow’s lighting design is crafty and ambient, a perfect fit to the weight of the piece. As our players are on stage a great deal of the time, so there is little scope for elaborate or detailed costuming, the smart work of Charlie Baptist means that throughout the show I am regaled with the duality of the pieces.

I am strongly impressed by Thomas Press, who has composed and designed an amazing, continuously flowing sound track for the show, which punctuates the show perfectly, bringing a lot of the power of the piece to life. I will say though, that it is a little too loud at times. This could be the room, but it is hard to hear Panuelo on some of the rare occasions that she speaks. 

My highest praise for the players, who deliver the show with energy and pace, surefooted, seeming not to miss a beat in what must be an exhausting show for them to perform, and in all of that dust! They are well cast and well-rehearsed which always impresses me.

Dust Pilgrim is an authentic, empathetic, fresh and enchanting exploration of some very commonplace human issues. Brava! Bravo!


Make a comment

The Anti-Arrival

Review by James Wenley 07th Jun 2015

Going in, the talking point is how Red Leap have downsized from their large ensemble company, the world-building of The Arrival, and the giant creatures of Sea. Dust Pilgrim is a nimble show for a smaller venue and three performers (plus crew member), designed artistically and economically for ease of touring.

Going out, the big news is that Red Leap has gone a little dark. While Red Leap has always had this edge in the background of their work, their previous shows have built a kid and school friendly reputation. This time directors Julie Nolan and Kate Parker have extended this edge further. Dust Pilgrim isn’t frightening, but the stakes are life and death. [More]


Make a comment

Delightful, purposeful, ambitious and earnestly ambiguous

Review by Nik Smythe 05th Jun 2015

I love Red Leap. There is a certain sensibility to all their work; as well as signature forms like ropes and pulleys, original puppetry and multi-purpose constructions on wheels, it is typically underpinned by an ethereal, dreamlike essence as oddly familiar as it is curiously alien. 

While continuing this tradition, this latest venture is somewhat scaled-down from their previous opus, SEA, in terms of venue and cast size, and there is diametric contrast in its arid desert world setting.  

Artistic directors Julie Nolan and Kate Parker devised this fairly simple, somewhat dark tale with the three performers: Alison Bruce, Ella Becroft and Tom Eason.  Whether the opening night audience is well trained in the company’s mystical methods, or some other magic is afoot, it’s quite astonishing when the doors close and the seated audience quickly drops into absolute silence even before the house lights go out. 

Becroft plays the protagonist Panuelo, a meek and skittish young Cinderella type living inside some kind of clock run by sandbag pendulums that require constant calibration, their contents slowly trickling out as they swing across the stage.  She is under the oppressive control of her fearsome mother with the oversized cigar and the dry hacking cough (Bruce). Exactly why she is so bitter and sadistic is one of a number of indistinct mysteries addressed but not conclusively revealed, although she does irrationally blame the protracted drought on her daughter’s birth. 

The imagined/manifested image of Panuelo’s absent father (Eason) is her catalyst to making a break for it, escaping into the desert to eventually join a desert circus type menagerie run by a grotesque ringmaster (also Eason): unusually verbose for a Red Leap character, albeit with an amusing impediment.  

Ultimately finding no conclusive escape and driven to face the demons which pursue her, the less-than-cynical conclusion is something of a relief, given her story’s pervading tone of sombre angst, peppered as it is with flashes of excitement and hope. 

Resplendent with customary curious devices, exotic creatures and repeated motifs, as always the sumptuous imagery designed and constructed by co-director Parker with Rachel Hilliar takes a prominent role, in unity with Poppy Serano’s beguiling set design, Charlie Baptist’s classically ostentatious costumes and Rachel Marlow’s dynamic lighting.  Generally quite enchanting, a few elements don’t visually pop as much as it feels like they should, such as the little moths-sticks and the otherwise magnificent giant skeleton-dad. 

Sound design virtuoso Thomas Press imbues the whole artistic package with layered strings and percussions, enhancing the physical action and contributing greatly to a much-needed emotional connection. 

The elemental star of all these richly entwined production values is the titular dust, pouring, swirling and billowing over, around and through the action as it plays out like a chaotic powdery dream.  Brown dust represents corporeality; white powder for smoke and ethereal type mists.

Dust really is fascinating stuff if you ever bother to think about it. It’s quite normal to take its inevitability and general inconvenience for granted, but consider what wonderful creatures and things it once would have been, and witness its sobering message of entropy and transformation.  Plus it looks cool when you make white clouds of talc explode under theatre lights.

Eschewing the spoon-fed narrative approach, they work hard to find an ideal equilibrium between that and its antithesis of esoteric gobbledygook. While there’s a strong sense the characters know precisely who and where they are, these attributes are often ambiguous to the first-time viewer.

Greatly enjoyable in itself, the cerebral nature of the form runs the risk of compromising the play’s emotional intensity.  Words I want to be able to use more to describe Red Leap include Stirring, Cathartic, even Upsetting.  There are certainly moments that do connect in Dust Pilgrim’s premiere, but the real challenge for the company is to find the perfect balance, where captivating spectacle and penetrating insight resonate off each other to create a truly affecting piece of art.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council