BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

12/03/2021 - 17/03/2021

NZ Fringe Festival 2021

Production Details

Wellington Fringe Festival at BATS, 12-17 March 

The New Zealand Premiere of Physical Theatre Show  

The world is in chaos. Two people must create their own fantasy world to deal with the challenges around them and begin to accept a new way of life. 

Uruguayan theatre company Animalismo Teatro present Habbuk, a story of survival and love placed in a symbolic reality that will captivate your senses.

Emma and Gushma must traverse a world transformed by chaos, finding shelter in the complicity of their love. Speaking an invented and universal language that everyone can understand, Emma and Gushma make their own world of fantasy to sidestep the more difficult circumstances, traversing a path of transformation and acceptance that will lead them to a new everyday life.

Habbuk represents the desire to restore life’s more human side. You are invited to connect directly with your perceptions and emotions; to enhance your imagination; to feel before thinking.

Having toured in Uruguay and Montréal, Canada, Habbuk will have its New Zealand premiere at Q Theatre in February, followed by a season at BATS in March for Wellington Fringe Festival.

“Luckily stranded” 

It is fortuitous that the theatre company is in New Zealand. Last year saw performers Alejandro Sterenstein and Sofía Rivero ‘luckily stranded’ as a result of border closures following Covid-19. They join their Producer Nati Pereira who lives in Auckland and is also a Set and Costume Designer.

Wellington Fringe Festival at BATS, Wellington
12-17 March,
Fri, Sat, Tue, Wed: 9pm
Sub: 8pm
Tickets: $14-$40
Book at: bats.co.nz/whats-on/habbuk/

Animalismo Teatro 
Animalismo is a Uruguayan theatre company that works as an ensemble for the research and creation of shows rooted in different styles, genres and theatrical resources, mostly physical. Their actors have trained and performed with various physical theatre companies in South America, Canada, the US and here in Aotearoa, including Red Leap Theatre. For more information: animalismoteatro.com


Animalismo Teatro and Habbuk were recently featured on Uruguay national TV station Canal 4 , and Uruguay national TV station Canal 10.
Habbuk has also been featured in Auckland’s Latidos Magazine. 

Theatre , Physical ,

1 hr

Love story shines through despite the bleakness

Review by Ines Maria Almeida 15th Mar 2021

Performers Alejandro Sterenstein and Sofia Rivero from Uruguay’s physical theatre company Teatro Animalismo are trapped. They’re trapped in New Zealand (thanks to covid) and on stage in their show Habbuk, they’re trapped in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland or war zone. 

Stage designer Santiago Espasandin has created a bleak background with numerous vintage suitcases, a rope, and piles and piles of pebbles (which might be rubber), however the story isn’t bleak at all: Habbuk is a love story.

If you’re worried about not understanding the Spanish, don’t worry, there isn’t any. Instead, Teatro Animalismo has created its own language – something Hungarian sounding. [More
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Bold, bewildering, beguiling and beautiful

Review by Jonathan Kingston-Smith 13th Mar 2021

The world is unfolding and unfurling; simultaneously collapsing in upon itself and exploding outwards in a volley of sparks and shards – fragments scattering and smouldering. The illusion of order is eroded as a rising tide of entropy consumes all. We walk a broken path through a land shaped by chaos. 

This is not just a general observation. It is also the setting of this piece. 

Animalismo Teatro are an independent theatre company hailing from Uruguay. Last year, they travelled across the seas to the bottom of the world. Their goal was to bring their show – Habbuk – to this far-flung network of small islands, Aotearoa. They arrived in March 2020. Already countries were being swept by a micro-organism so simplistic that it can barely be considered alive – vastly contagious, frequently lethal, devastating to global economies and social systems. A week after Animalismo Teatro landed in New Zealand the nation went into level 4 lockdown. The streets were empty. Venues closed down. All was paralysed. Frozen. Quiet. And so, the collective was stranded here as civilisation locked its doors.

Now in 2021 we have a strange new world – irrevocably altered and transforming still. Here in our isolated landmass, we have some measure of stability restored – albeit tenuously. Live performance before audiences is possible, at least for the time being. However, Animalismo Teatro must soon return to Uruguay. This, then is to be their parting gift to the country that they have made their temporary home in – the realisation of the goal they had when they first ventured here.

The protagonists of this work are Emma and Gushma, performed by Sofía Rivero and Alejandro Sterenstein. They must navigate this collapsing landscape, walk the broken path and – through the unity of their love – create a shared world within it, making a life for themselves amongst the disorder. This is physical theatre. The sparse dialogue is written in a language devised by the collective. This use of an invented language gives the performance a certain universality – it can be performed anywhere, before any audience, without need for translation. 

The stage is covered in gravel – it appears dark and wet beneath the minimal light. Suitcases are strewn about; the splayed rags of garments, a length of rope. Music undulates across the wasteland in synthetic waves – roiling skeins of ambient sound, akin to pulsing storm-clouds, the distant wailing of air raid sirens. Emma explodes from a doorway, breath erupting in gasps. She hits the gravel hard and skids. On hands and knees, she digs through the wreckage until she finally happens upon the item she seeks – a small leather carry-bag. We will not learn of its significance until much later in the piece.

Emma traces a face in the air, a child perhaps. She speaks to this phantom in a language that we cannot recognise. Then she mimes a terrible separation. A loss.

Suddenly, another figure emerges – broad-shouldered and tall. This is Gushma. Emma greets him at first with relief. But his presence confirms something she fears, causing her to unleash a howl of anguish, raw and primal… Gushma panics and snatches her up, stuffing her bodily into one of the suitcases. This is not a malevolent act; it seems instead protective. There is a threat, all about them – in the industrial chatter that consumes the soundscape, in the encroaching shadows. Something terrible has happened. Something terrible is happening still.

Once the moment has passed and Emma is released from the case, the two begin a journey through this shifting and treacherous landscape. As they travel, they discover each other. Their relationship shifts and changes. At various times they are playful, combative, flirtatious and conciliatory. Together they build a fort from the cases, scattering a path of books so they can caper across ground suddenly turned to mire. Other scenes unfold as they mime a dinner party, an art exhibition. They squabble over food.

Throughout the performance they taunt, rage at and delight one another. Scenes are fluid and fascinating: caresses move from tenderly intimate to implicitly aggressive, violent even. Sudden surges of sour white noise screech across the stage and the characters become weirdly transfixed, pinioned, sometimes twisting their fingers into their own faces. It is distressing and baffling to witness.

The characters in Habbuk speak a language of touches and grasps, embraces and leaps. The sheer physicality on display throughout is extraordinary – incorporating elements of dance, clown and mime. Both actors move in a startling – sometimes seemingly weightless, boneless – ballet of expression. Rivero can transition from ragdoll limpness to startled-cat tension within a heartbeat. Sterenstein uses every aspect of his physical strength throughout, often throwing Rivero aloft as though she weighs no more than an autumn leaf. He also bears her upon his back or shoulders for a surprising portion of the performance. Both actors are adroit at using facial emotion to wordlessly convey the sense of the scene. One particularly striking instance has Rivero’s visage shifting from smiling to stricken in a way that is heartbreaking to behold.

The invented language serves a powerful purpose. It prevents us, the audience, from fully comprehending what we are witnessing, yet it never alienates us. Instead, it forces us to react – viscerally and emotionally – to these people and their uncertain, unknowable plight. We do not fully understand these characters or their emotions. But, little by little, we come to love them.

The music and sound design (by Gonzalo Varela and Paolo Grosso) are superb, incorporating elements of acoustic guitar, scraped strings, tinkling music-boxes and bitter, brutalizing blasts of harsh noise into a haunting, daunting mosaic. The lighting (designed by Rodrigo Novoa) is evocative and emotive, perfectly illuminating the performances. The costuming (by Valentina Gatti) is delightful, detailed and well-suited to the material. The prop work is ingenious – the suitcases unfold to reveal treasures: transforming into tables, easels, bookshelves and pantries, as well as popping open to reveal a cavalcade of bright scarves. 

Habbuk is a theatrical enchantment. It is a dense, considered work that would reward multiple viewings. This show is bold, bewildering, beguiling and beautiful.

Although the word ‘habbuk’ doesn’t seem to exist in any language, a Google search of the title yields hits for Habakkuk – a prophet from the Hebrew Bible. And his name is thought to be derived from the Hebrew word for ‘embrace’.


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