PAPER SKY: A Love Story

Glen Eden Playhouse, Auckland

04/03/2011 - 06/03/2011

Mercury Theatre, Auckland

10/03/2011 - 14/03/2011

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

24/10/2012 - 26/10/2012

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

02/11/2012 - 17/11/2012

Kings & Queens, Performing Arts Centre, Dunedin

25/04/2014 - 26/04/2014

Oamaru Opera House, Oamaru

01/05/2014 - 01/05/2014

SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill

03/05/2014 - 05/05/2014

Auckland Arts Festival 2011

Southland Festival of the Arts 2014

Production Details

Directed by Kate Parker and Julie Nolan

Red Leap Theatre

Following the international success of The Arrival, New Zealand’s Red Leap Theatre returns with their magical new work, Paper Sky – A Love Story.  

Henry lives alone. He reads poetry. He writes poems. Then he meets Lumina, who captures his thoughts like the pages of a book.

Henry lives alone. He reads poetry. He writes poems and tucks them into different places, his pockets, between books, under furniture. Henry has been on a few dates but they never seem to work out. Then he meets Lumina and he can’t quite believe her. How she captures his thoughts like the pages of a book, how she wanders in his mind like letters on the wind.

Love illuminates. It makes us bold. It makes us take risks.

Performed by an ensemble cast under the direction of Kate Parker and Julie Nolan, Paper Sky incorporates striking visual imagery and physicality to unfold a love story as intimate as the space between two people and as epic as the sky.

Praised as a highlight of the Sydney and Hong Kong Arts Festivals, and recipient of six prestigious Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards 2010, The Arrival generated international enthusiasm for Red Leap’s work. Paper Sky’s intimate story will be staged in the iconic Mercury Theatre and the Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre. Early bookings are advised.

Commissioned by Auckland Arts Festival 2011.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.

Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre
Fri 4 & Sat 5 March 2011, 8pm
Sat 5 & Sun 6 March, 2pm

Mercury Theatre
Thur 10 – Mon 14 March 2011, 7pm

Festival page

Red Leap’s signature visual flair and endless inventive theatricality has won multiple awards and helped them take their brand of New Zealand theatre to the world. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see New Zealand’s leading movement and image based theatre company at very special prices.

“…an exquisitely crafted rhapsody of image and movement-based theatre.”
– Paul Simei-Barton, NZ Herald

“I am sure that Kate Parker and Julie Nolan, the directors of Red Leap Theatre, could perform imaginative feats that are faster than a locomotive and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Modestly, with cardboard, paper, and the limited angular possibilities of the human body, Parker and Nolan are somehow able to create worlds that reflect, with absolute clarity and insight, our own.”
– Zhou Ting-Fung, Theatreview

“The company, design and costumes are faultless and Paper Sky, at its heart, is charming, short and sweet.”
– Elisabeth Easther, NZ Listener

“Paper Sky was made for me. It touched my heart and prodded at my

imagination in every way possible. It was beautiful…” Stevie Hopwood, Blogger


Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā To hu o Uenuku
Wednesday 24 to Friday 26 October 2012 at 7.30pm.
Community / School Matinees Thursday 25 and Friday 26 October at 12.30pm.
Show Duration: 80 mins, no interval. Suitable for 12 years and above.
Public Pre Show Forum in Mangere Arts Centre Foyer: Wednesday 24 October, 6.30pm – 7.00pm.

Tickets: $12 – $20 (Booking fees may apply).
Group prices also available:
Bookings through Eventfinder –  or 09 262 5789

For company news and updates visit

Downstage, cnr Cambridge Tce & Courtenay Pl, Wellington
2-17 November 2012


Friday 25 – Sat 26 April 7.30pm
Kings and Queens Performing Arts Centre
270 Bay View Road, Dunedin
BOOKINGS: or 0800 224 224

Thurs 1 May 7.30pm
Oamaru Opera House
94 Thames Street, Oamaru
BOOKINGS: or 0800 224 224

Sat 3 May 7.30pm, Sun 4 May 2pm and Mon 5 May – 12pm
SIT Centrestage Theatre
33 Don Street, Invercargill
BOOKINGS: or SIT Centrestage Theatre 03 214 6900

– Emmett Skilton | Shadon Meredith (2014)
Lumina – Julia Croft
Chorus – Alison Bruce, Veronica Brady and Justin Haiu | Ella Becroft, Renee Lyons and Matariki Whatarau (2014)

Artistic Directors:
Kate Parker and Julie Nolan
Costume Design: Elizabeth Whiting
Sound Design: Andrew McMillan
Story Consultant: Philippa Campbell
Set Design: John Verryt
Lighting Design: Jeremy Fern
Imagery Design: Kate Parker
Contributing Composer: Claire Cowan 

Emmett Skilton, Julia Croft, Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce, Justin Haiu,
Thanks also to Paolo Rotondo

Lauren Hughes
Stage Manager: Theresa Hanaray
Set Construction: Jan Ubels
Scenic Artist: Renee Te PaireAnna Henry
Paper Maker: Mark Lander
Turntables recording Engineer:  Leonard McMullan
Foley Tutor: Mat Brenan
Education Resource: Kerry Lynch 

Interns: Phoebe Hurst, Hayley Brown, Holly Chappell and Rachel Hilliar   

Theatre ,


Review by Hannah Molloy 26th Apr 2014

I’m looking forward to Red Leap Theatre’s next visit to the South Island and can only feel a little mournful that they haven’t ventured our way before now. If Paper Sky is anything to go by, Red Leap Theatre would breathe fresh and quirky life into Dunedin’s theatre offerings. 

Paper Sky is exquisite, from start to finish. It has drama, hilarity, romance, tragedy and charm in spades. It feels European in its subtlety and polish and in its wry but gentle look at the inner workings of the mind and of burgeoning romance. 

The producer explained to me that this is the first time this cast has performed in front of an audience – I am surprised as they seem to have an awareness of each other in time and space that speaks of long experience working together.

The set is minimal but so very clever: painted mobile backdrops representing two apartments and sneaky furniture that swallowed and yielded people and props at will, enabling the apparently magical appearance and disappearance of suitcases, hands and wolves, not to mention whole bodies.

The story itself is gentle and compassionate, Henry the grieving writer, played by Shadon Meredith, is happily living a reclusive life, surrounded by three parts of his consciousness, played by Renee Lyons, Matariki Whatarau and Ella Becroft, and wrapped in his torment: the loss of his lover Rosa by drowning.

Louise, the vivacious neighbour, played by Julia Croft, moves in and disrupts everything; his furniture, his consciousness (each part of which disapproves and tries to bind him back into his grief until they slowly come around to Louise’s chaotic and very endearing presence) and his story.

The play is drawn out through Henry’s story, of Lumina the lost woman whose heart appears to burn with a fierce determination to find her way out of the morass in which she seems to find herself. Lumina is a beautifully expressive puppet, manipulated by Becroft, whose own face seems to take on Lumina’s expression.

Paper as a medium for telling a story is familiar to me – you write on it or you print your words out on it usually – but Red Leap has expanded my horizons. Puppetry, shadow, dance, shreds, reams and sheets of paper, they all drift around the story, pulling it apart and tying it together.

Exquisite is the word I keep coming back to and I’m not sure how many times I can use it in a review before it becomes meaningless but the set and the props made of paper are simply that. Finely crafted, clever, imaginative, beautiful, unexpected, succinct – there are lots of words actually but exquisite seems to sum them all up neatly.

The music, composed by Andrew McMillan and Claire Cowan, suits each mood perfectly and I can feel it vibrating through my feet which only enhances the plucking of my heart strings for poor Henry’s loss. I’m so pleased his consciousness allows him to let go of his grief – I am worried for a while that it (they) won’t.

The lighting, designed by Jeremy Fern and adapted for touring by Sam Mence, is crisp and clever, creating shadow plays in corners and imbuing the furniture and walls with an eerie menace when Henry is searching for Lumina.

I sometimes think it would have suited me to have been born into a fairy tale – I think this one would have been a good one for me.

Come back Red Leap Theatre, we’ll be very happy to extend a southern welcome to you again.


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Puppetry and illusion

Review by Lynn Freeman 07th Nov 2012

Red Leap Theatre’s production of The Arrival remains one of the most memorable, remarkable, technically complex and beautiful productions this country has seen. It was epic, filling the Opera House stage. Paper Sky is a very intimate piece, best seen up close and personal. The mix of puppetry and illusion is still there in this love story about a lonely bereaved writer whose rituals are disturbed by a woman who moves in next door.

The fantasy world the fragile Henry writes about on sheets of paper is portrayed with paper puppets and vast sheets of paper that are massive waves one moment and snow covered mountains the next. His central character is a young woman, Lumina lives in a precarious world and gradually her world merges with his own. Louise is the catalyst for Henry having to face up to the tragedy, where he couldn’t save the woman he loved from drowning, that lead him to his solitary life.

The cast devised the work and they are all exceptional in their roles: Emmett Skilton, Julia Croaft, Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce and Justin Haiu. This is genuine ensemble work in action, and their performances are peppered with fun moments and nuances that make it worth seeing again.

This is a play with few words but the way emotions are expressed, with such physicality and honesty, they would just get in the way. It’s in many ways a simple story, but often that’s all love stories need to be. The production is so very clever, it’s magical, it’s moving and it’s charming.

John Verryt’s set design allows the walls of Henry’s and Louise’s apartment to circle around each other. The sofa swallows up people then spits them out, nothing feels fixed or certain. Andrew McMillan’s soundscape, both music (composed with Claire Cowan) and sound effects, and Jeremy Fern’s lighting, add layers to the tale of Henry, his past and new love, and his fictional heroine. 


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Creative storytelling a delight

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 05th Nov 2012

Having had a triumphant season in Wellington two years ago with their production of The Arrival, Red Leap Theatre are now back in town with their latest production Paper Sky, currently playing at Downstage.

Although a much more intimate and less substantial work then The Arrival, this production nevertheless still shows all the creative genius and flare of Red Leap founders and artistic directors Julie Nolan and Kate Parker seen in their previous productions.

They have described their work as “image-based storytelling” where they use movement, imagery and puppetry with minimal dialogue to tell their stories and Paper Sky is no exception in this regard.

Aided by a very creative set designed by John Verryt that, as it evolves, almost becomes a production in itself, with imaginative lighting and sound by Jeremy Fern and Andrew McMillan, the story of recluse writer Henry (Emmett Skilton) magically unfolds.

He has locked himself indoors to write his stories after the loss of his wife. As he writer, the images of his thoughts and feelings materialise through wonderfully constructed paper cut outs. These are activated by three actors, Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce, Justin Haiu, who also become this alter egos as he becomes more and more depressed at not achieving a successful writing outcome. 

Contained in his writing is Lumina, his heroine (a puppet), the creation of which is motivated by Henry’s very real feelings for his departed wife.  As Henry writes, Lumina appears to be exorcising her own demons in parallel to Henry. 

Then to compound matters his world is shattered when a real women Louise (Julia Croft) moves in next door causing his two worlds of fiction and reality to collide. 

Although the ending of the production becomes a little drawn out and loses focus, the enchantment is still maintained throughout and the originality and sheer inventiveness of the overall concept is truly inspiring. 

Much of this is through Skilton’s wonderful realisation of Henry which he brings him to life with all the nerdishness required of this type of character. With barely a handful of words spoken his facial expressions and body language speaks volumes. 

The supporting actors are also well disciplined and move about with agility, seamlessly manipulating the puppets from scene to scene to make this a delightful show for all ages. 


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A magical treasure

Review by John Smythe 03rd Nov 2012

The typewriter sets the scene at some decades ago. He’s snappily dressed for a writer who works at home, in a headspace awash with white paper.  

Because so much of the pleasure of Paper Sky arises from watching it all unfold, from interpreting the reality of his story and his stories as they all play out, to say much more may constitute a spoiler. But I want to capture its essence for the historical record. And nothing can beat experiencing it in performance, moment by moment. So it has to be your choice whether or not to read on.

Some assumptions I make change as I witness, respond and think it through, both during the show and afterwards.

The reindeer aloft beneath the full moon as the typewriter types on suggest this is the story he’s writing, set in some northern alpine clime. What I think is a flowerbed, as it appears within the morass, becomes an exotic tropical forest, albeit white, when a small puppet female puts it into perspective. The only colour is a red glow deep within the flower she plucks.

Now wolves are howling aloft as the furnishings of his room appear then, suddenly and contrapuntally, he is physically in his own story (but is it his real one or the one he is writing?), almost drowning in the billowing paper, calling her name, grasping for her hand – a real one reaching up through the billowing brine. Losing his grip, it is he who howls now: “Rosa!”

The music and soundscape pump up the drama but despite the melodramatic scenario, Emmet Skilton, as the writer – Henry, his name will turn out to be – convinces us his trauma is real. So was it? Or is his writing just very compelling? The photo he mourns over, alone on his sofa, suggests it was true, or at least that he has suffered the loss the woman he loved. 

A trio of alter-egos – Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce, Justin Haiu – echo and otherwise manifest Henry’s inner feelings, sometimes with compassion, sometimes compelled to protect him from further hurt.

Someone moving in next door adds the interest – and threat – of something new in his real world. This will turn out to be Louise, an enterprising, renovating, karate-practising, happy-to-be-friendly and soon-to-be-admiring young woman, wonderfully realised in a delightfully physical performance by Julia Croft.

With barely a word to say out loud, Skilton manifests every emotion and thought Henry experiences with profound authenticity, as he battles his conflicting needs to meet his deadline – an impatient publisher called Bob (Bruce) keeps phoning – maintain his loyalty to his lost love and resist, or not, the fresh breeze of Louise.

The aforementioned trio also animate the effects and the set itself (along with their stage manager, Chelsea Adams). And Brady animates Henry’s fictional heroine, Lumina (the programme note tells us her name), as she battles her own demons – or are they his? – in the shape of the wolves and the elements, all the while carrying a satchel that glows with the red-centred flower.

It is no secret (the programme note tells us as much) that we are witnessing and empathising with Henry’s subjective experience, of loss and renewal through cathartic creation.

Lumina, it turns out, was plucked from a stormy sea by an albatross and taken to apparent safety, although the ravenous wolves suggest otherwise. She endures a number of highly melodramatic life-threatening incidents before she brings her love – the flower – home to her creator at last. If this is what Henry is literally writing, we have to wonder how Bob the publisher will react.

But in the time-honoured cliché of Hollywood scribes, he keeps tearing pages from his typewriter and throwing them away – sometimes questioning whether this is what he wrote at all – and these are what Louise discovers and falls in love with. It is she who gives him the confidence to continue and complete … And she who calls them “stories”, plural, which I take as a clue that what we have seen animated is not what he has actually written.

I would like to think the co-directors, Julie Noland and Kate Parker, and their devising cast, are clear about what is real and what’s not – what is tangible and what is metaphor – because what’s the point of our trying to solve the conundrum if it’s just one of those wishy-washy ‘up to the audience to decide’ cop-outs?

Given my confidence in the creators, however, and knowing Paper Sky has developed considerably since it premiered at last year’s Auckland Arts Festival, I’m happy to trust it and so indulge my own compulsion to decode this magical experience. (Magic, after all, only works when the magician knows exactly what is real and what is illusion.)

The design elements are a huge part of what makes it all such a delight. John Verryt’s set, which mobilises to suggest two adjoining apartments, and the effects he’s designed with Kate Parker – all made of paper! – become performers in themselves in the talented hands of the cast and crew. Jeremy Fern’s lighting and the compositions of Clare Cowan and Andrew McMillan (who also designed the sound and directed the music) add dramatic texture and emotional depth. Elizabeth Whiting’s costume designs speak volumes about the characters who wear them.

Parker and Nolan’s Red Leap Theatre have become major players in New Zealand’s theatrical landscape, venturing into creative domains where many fear to tread. They and this production are treasures to be greatly valued. 


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Skilful integration of reality, psychology and magic

Review by Johnny Givins 25th Oct 2012

This is a magical, inventive, exquisitely fragile show of depth and perception. 

Red Leap Theatre has launched their renewed version of Paper Sky at the Southside Festival in the Mangere Art Centre with a fresh and reinvigorated telling of an acclaimed physical theatre masterpiece.

Red Leap has built an international reputation for their physical theatre style.  You may remember The Arrival (in Auckland 2009 & 2012; Wellington 2010), and Paper Sky played at the Auckland Festival in 2011. Each production is revisited by the actors in the ensemble; the directors Julie Nolan and Kate Parker have assembled a multi-talented cast for this production.

The story centres on the journey of Henry (Emmett Skilton) in both reality and fiction when the heroine, Louise (Julia Croft), moves in next door and disrupts his life.

You may remember Emmett Skilton from the successful TV3’s Almighty Johnsons.  His Paper Sky performance is in a different league from the juvenile ‘god in waiting’.  Henry is a writer and recluse with a mind full of problems.  He is introverted, pathetic, manic, then vulnerable, loving and profoundly disturbed.  He tells a great story. 

Henry’s role is so big that he needs three other actors to expose his emotional complexity in this surreal drama.  Providing a trio of reflections to Henry’s actions, his three psychic shadows – played by Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce and Justin Haiu – are fantastic.  They magically appear and disappear as the love journey unfolds.  They manage to create three unique characters which are sometimes like Three Stooges, then Marx Brothers, then three famous clowns, and at their best are true, honest and affectionate. 

The trio manipulate an extremely clever mobile set by John Verryt and create space for the magic to unfold.  And it’s all paper! The first image is of a huge white paper landscape which becomes the canvas for Henry’s story.  The creatures in this world manifest like dreams: a fragile princess, angry wolves, sea storms, rescuing seagull, beautiful birds … and it ends in stunning shadow play.

This is physical theatre with very few words.  The ensemble cast physically create the illusions in front of our eyes.  The Heroine (Julia Croft) fights her way into Henry’s protective world with the most extraordinary physical feats: a highlight of ensemble skill, discipline and training. 

The mastery of this show is that the reality, psychology, and magic are all integrated.  It is not only visually great to watch; it stimulates the audience’s memories of past dreams, just out of reach, but vaguely remembered.

Shows like this are rare.  They are fragile and need to be perfect, and with honest performances, to work for an audience.  This preview showed a few rough patches, but the love and courage the ensemble displayed will develop into an even more memorable theatrical experience as it travels. 

Take the kids and/or ‘the child within’: all will be rewarded. The company opens in Wellington – at Downstage – shortly.


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Visual imagery captures complexity of love

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 07th Mar 2011

Julie Nolan and Kate Parker follow the success of The Arrival’s premier 

After creating a sensation at the previous Auckland Arts Festival, the creators ofThe Arrivalhave returned with an exquisitely crafted rhapsody of image and movement-based theatre. 

Their strikingly inventive brand of story-telling dissolves the boundaries between puppet and puppeteer. Doll-sized figurines seduce the actors who are manipulating them and draw us into an imaginary world full of danger and enchantment. [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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Magical, escapist escapade as enchanting as it is baffling

Review by Sian Robertson 06th Mar 2011

From the creators of Moahunting (2001), The Butcher’s Daughter (2003), Beyond the Blue (2008) and internationally acclaimed The Arrival (2009), comes this dream-like, magical story of improbable love.

Not familiar with the work of Red Leap Theatre’s directorial duo, I wasn’t expecting puppetry to be such a key feature, and I was expecting more dialogue, the main protagonist, Henry, being a poet. But the play is driven primarily by movement and music. Large swathes of calico are skilfully billowed to become oceans and strange landscapes, reindeer and other mystical creatures.

Lumina (played by Julia Croft, mainly through clever puppetry) appears from this ragged, papery world into the smooth, solid, orderly one of Henry (Emmett Skilton). He tries to make her comfortable in his world, though she doesn’t quite belong, and he follows her into her world where they must brave the elements, the perilous landscape and wild animals.  

Whether Lumina is real, or a figment of one of Henry’s poems, is unclear. In fact, the line is deliberately blurred – between worlds, between inside and outside, between imagination and the physical world.

The set (John Verryt) helps to create the contrast between the two lovers’ different worlds. Henry’s is made of squares and smooth surfaces, with things like table legs, curtains and sofa cushions painted on: hard, immutable, certain – yet still surreal. Lumina’s world, on the other hand, is constantly in motion: volatile, light and airy, like the paper on which Henry types his poems.

Henry is intensely agoraphobic and lives through books, expressing himself in poetry and losing himself in the pages of books; shutting out the outside world. Through Henry’s eyes, love is a treacherous journey requiring courage and sensitivity, which you may not survive but which, if you do, will make you stronger.

In his safe, neat apartment with its typewriter and stacks of books, Henry is mirrored by an ensemble, like a visual Greek chorus, echoing his intentions and emotional reactions. Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce and Justin Haiu inventively and humorously portray Henry’s hopes and fears. 

Directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan take you on a magical, escapist escapade through a papery world of movement, light and shadow, inhabited by whimsical puppet creatures. Theirs is a very distinctive style that inspires a sense of childlike wonder and enchantment.

Because of its dreamlike quality, the narrative is sometimes hard to follow, with sudden and inexplicable changes in setting, for example from Henry’s room to a rocky mountainside – as can often be the case in dreams. There is a strong interplay between what’s going on visually, and the music and sound effects. In fact, the soundtrack is essential in understanding the storyline, often being the only clue, for example, that the protagonists are in danger or that the behaviour of the strange banshee/birdlike creatures is threatening rather than friendly.

Luckily, Paper Sky is at least as enchanting as it is baffling, and I was able to suspend my need for a literal narrative (in those moments when one seemed to be lacking) and lose myself in the fantasy world, rich in symbolism, that somehow, like a dream, doesn’t need to explain itself.
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.   


Lauren Hughes March 6th, 2011

 Hi Sian. Just FYI the "calico" is actually all hand made paper by paper artist Mark Lander.

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