06/03/2014 - 10/03/2014
ONE BOY, A DRIFTING ISLAND AND A RESTLESS SEA
“…Red Leap Theatre could perform imaginative feats that are faster than a locomotive and leap tall buildings in a single bound…” Zhou Ting-Fung, The Big Idea
From the award-winning team that brought you The Arrival, Red Leap Theatre’s highly anticipated new work SEA premieres at the Maidment Theatre from 6-10 March 2014.
An ensemble of nine highly skilled performers brings this dynamic physical theatre tale to life. Striking imagery including an array of marvellous sea creatures combine with the power of the imagination to create a gripping story for people of all ages and cultures.
A young man is washed up on a drifting island. The people take him in as a welcome fishing omen, bringing with him an abundant catch.
However, the people are not who he thought they were and the man begins to fear for his life and the sea.
As New Zealanders, we live on an island at the bottom of one of the largest oceans on the planet. Our lives, our memories and our childhoods are shaped by the sea. The seed for this work started with a fascination for the humpback whale and its migration songs. This evolved into the company beginning to better understand the plight of the world’s oceans where around 90% of its large fish have disappeared in the last 100 years. From this starting point Red Leap Theatre began the journey of developing and creating this beautiful new work.
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.
FEATURING: Antonia Stehlin, Ella Becroft, Dahnu Graham, Leroy Lakamu, Shadon Meredith, Tom Eason, Min Kim, Jade Daniels, Moko Smith.
SEA premieres March 2014 to coincide with Seaweek 2014 (www.seaweek.org.nz).
6th – 10th March 2014
Maidment Theatre, Alfred Street, Auckland CBD
Performance times: 7.30pm Thursday 6 March – Monday 10 March
+ 2pm Sunday 9 March
Show Duration: 80 minutes
Tickets: $15 – $55. Booking fees will apply.
Tickets on sale from January 24th 2014
Bookings through Maidment Theatre:
http://www.maidment.auckland.ac.nz or 09 308 238309 308 2383
Review by James Wenley 12th Mar 2014
Under Red Leap’s outstanding vision the sea is a phenomenon of awe: a place of wondrous beauty, unrelenting power, but also, poignantly, of great fragility. In Sea human kindness, resilience, and cruelty is set against the wild untameable force and fate of nautical nature.
Red Leap’s reputation has been built on the company’s debut The Arrival(2009), and directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan’s previous collaborations. Red Leap’s physical storytelling smarts, deep imagination, and stunning design this time creates a world above, and below the ocean, that you can’t keep your eyes off. [More]
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Audience submerged in wonderful world of aquatic creatures
Review by Paul Simei-Barton 10th Mar 2014
The underwater world proves to be the ideal environment for Red Leap’s unique blend of puppetry, dance and physical theatre in Sea.
The production opens with vast expanses of billowing silk conjuring up an apocalyptic deluge, and as the drama plunges beneath the luminous surface of a turquoise sea the audience is submerged in a breathtakingly beautiful vision of aquatic life.
Julie Nolan and Kate Parker have created an exquisitely crafted menagerie of sea creatures that are brought to life in finely choreographed sequences in which the motion of puppets is seamlessly blended with the dance of the puppeteers. [More]
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
A big hole where its beating heart ought to be
Review by Simon Wilson 08th Mar 2014
There’s something distressing about sitting in a play full of creative endeavour, presented by hard-working and highly skilled people, and realising that the longer it goes on, the more boring it gets. Red Leap Theatre made their name in 2009 with the wonderfully inventive festival show The Arrival, based on the captivating and haunting comic novel by Shaun Tan. That show filled the Civic and since then has played in festivals throughout Asia and the Pacific. It was wonderful. Red Leap’s new show is presented at the Maidment and is smaller in every way.
It’s not that their brand of determined physical exertion, big puppets and captivating visual imagery demands a big stage in order to work. It’s not that they’re not trying, either. Artistic directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan have again assembled a talented cast and crew and they all throw themselves into the work. From giant turtles gliding across the stage to the lithe movement of bodies and the delightfully engaging music, talent is on show, and Sea contains many clever, sometimes quite beautiful moments. [More]
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Bemused March 21st, 2014
You clearly hated 'Girl In Tan Boots'. That's fine, but why should I consider your opinion to be of more value than that of the reviewer? Can you give me a run down on why I should listen to you in preference. You and a few friends hated the play. That's fine too. You might be right. My understanding is a lot of people didn't hate the show. None of my mates found much to fault with it. Why should I give the opinions of a few disgruntled punters who seem to want reviewers to shit on everyone's play the time of day? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'd just like to know why you think I should consider you might be right?
Gobsmacked March 21st, 2014
So pseudonyms were discussed in 2007 - all well and good, but since then we’ve had Edward Snowden, and many of us feel rather differently now. (I’ve got nothing to hide, but I still don’t want my future employers to have instant access to the minutiae of my political convictions, for instance).
There is also the matter of trust. There is something unpleasantly threatening in John’s reminder that “I know who you are!”. I am one of many not remotely reassured that he would honour my wishes for anonymity, any more than the NSA would; especially when I post comments which he deems abusive, which in my view were usually merely miserable attempts to express frustrations with this site very similar to those of the Puzzled Ones above.
If Theatreview were able to change its approach and confirm openly that pseudonyms were now as welcome as real names, and that all contributors’ privacy would be scrupulously respected - if John would gently admonish those numpties who pop up regularly to accuse the pseudonymous of cowardice, instead of encouraging them! - discussions may be a lot more varied, frank and interesting.
After all, this comment stream should be in the Forum, not under a review for The Sea; I suspect the reason it isn’t is because the Forum does not permit pseudonyms. Ignoring this disapproval is possible - but why the disapproval at all?
I too applaud John & co for taking the criticism seriously and embarking on a hui, but frankly don’t hold out much hope. Bring on Shit on Your Arts, I say.
Also puzzled March 21st, 2014
Just because I refer to friends as smart and theatre literate, does not mean I think reviewers are dumb and theatre illiterate.
In the interest of not being labelled hypocritical, I went to see Girl in Tan Boots (actually before I made my last post). Again, my point here is not tear down work for the sake of it, and I'm not trying to create an "I'm right, you're wrong" type conversation. All I will say is that I should have listened to my friends, and that the review on this site is so wildly sycophantic in praising the play that it does call into question the skill of the writer in being able to critically assess work. Again, on another site, a review is posted that is intelligent, generous and concise but doesn't in any way shy away from highlighting that the work is far from perfect, and gives it a context that actually makes the failing of the work incredibly clear. How much more useful is this to the audience that might be thinking about seeing it, the audience that are trying to make sense of what they have seen, and the artists who made it and might be thinking about making something else?
The problem I am trying to highlight is that there is something strangely off about a website that is postioning itself as the hub for review, comment and debate that is constantly overshadowed by the review, comment and debate that is happening on non-specialist sites and indeed is wildly out of sync with the the physical conversations that happen around work. There will always be a segment of the community that is nasty and bitchy regardless, but as I've articulated here I am not interested in tearing down work for the sake of it, and generally speaking, nor are the people who I associate with.
I'm also not using a pseydonym so I can anonymously pass judgement on the work of others, I'm doing it in the hope that my identity doesn't overshadow the things I am trying to say. And I'm only saying anything because I genuinely hope the culture of feedback and review around work in this country can step up so as to provide value beyond just "well done, aren't you all clever?"
I think John and the team are to be applauded for actually taking this criticism seriously (even if it is anonymous, although I'm pretty sure as the managing editor of the site, John knows exactly who I am...) and would hope that as a result of the hui they are able to clearly articulate the purpose of this site, and the reviews contained within. What are the standards and values that this site aspires to? I find it alarming when John says "I make no directive to critics." Surely there must be some guiding principles to shape their reviews? Unfortunately, a love of good theatre probably isn't enough - a sharp and discerning critical eye is surely of more value to the audience and artists alike?
Bemused March 21st, 2014
And my point is that the reviewer had 'the actual experience of sitting in the audience and watching the damn thing' and you didn't. Are you recommending reviewers not see shows but rather sit in the bar and talk to 'smart, theatre literate people' who saw the show and then write about it based on that experience? Are you suggesting that Theatreview reviewers aren't 'smart, literate people'? You've already suggested that they trade their true opinions for free tickets. Who, in particular, among the Auckland reviewers would you describe as 'dumb, illiterate, non-theatre people'. You're anonymous, so tell the team what you really think :-)
John Smythe March 21st, 2014
Thanks ‘Gobsmacked’ (and I am surprised you are gobsmacked by news of the hui) – the anonymity issue was also thoroughly discussed on a Theatreview Forum in 2007 – see: http://www.theatreview.org.nz/forum/topic.php?id=94
Since then, anyone posting Comments on reviews has (hopefully) read the following:
“The aim of the Comments stream is to contribute to constructive communication.
“Communication is Conversation as Contribution. Please do as you would be done by.
“Being fundamentally opposed to censorship, we'd rather not moderate these comments. The site therefore takes no responsibility for opinions posted. If you disagree with one, add your own comment. …
“We'd prefer you to use your real name but if you require anonymity, you may overwrite it with a nom-de-web. (You cannot leave it blank.)”
You will note that despite some posts from you which could be seen as abusive, you have not been deleted at any level (yes I do know which name you have joined under although I don’t know if that name is real). This does not make you immune to other opinions being expressed about your making such statements under the cloak of anonymity. The right to free speech works both ways.
However this issue is unlikely to be on the agenda of critics’ hui.
Gobsmacked March 20th, 2014
Wow. In that case, this article may prove useful.
John Smythe March 20th, 2014
So here’s what’s happening. As a result of a communication sent to me before this thread started, but addressing similar concerns, Theatreview’s Auckland theatre critics decided this was a good opportunity to have a get together, meet each other, discuss our objectives and responsibilities as critics, and align to a common purpose (without resorting to a formula or ‘house style’, as the integrity of the individual voice must be maintained).
The hui will be on Sunday 27 April. I am flying to Auckland a few days earlier and will meet with the instigator either late afternoon Thursday 24 April or sometime Friday 25 April (Anzac Day), probably at The Basement or Q Theatre (details not yet finalised). S/he is not available over the weekend but anyway we want to take the concerns of others on board first then have our hui ‘in house’.
So if anyone else would like to join our meeting or meet with me separately on 24 or 25 April, please email me on email@example.com – or we could talk by phone (04 382 985004 382 9850 / 027 447 9850027 447 9850) – or you could wear a wig and a mask to preserve your anonymity … Call or email me if you want to be heard. (Obviously the valid concerns already raised here will be taken into account – and steps will be taken to share the value gained with other reviewers nationwide.)
Also puzzled March 20th, 2014
I just wanted to respond to "Bemused." It could be seen as hypocritical to comment on the review of a play I haven't seen, but I actually think it proves my point. Fair enough if my decision was based on the opinion of one friend, but it was at least 8 (I just counted them on my fingers), theatre literate and very smart people who advised against it. My point being that the critical analysis recorded on this site is often far out of whack with the actual experience of sitting in the audience and watching the damn thing.
In other news, here is a great review of 2 shows I didn't see. But the analysis is so clear, so generous and so intelligent that it almost makes me wish I lived in Wellington. Almost.
Bemused March 19th, 2014
'Also puzzled', so you took your friends advice and didn't go and see 'Girl In Tan Boots' yourself but you still feel can comment on the review. Sounds a bit hypocritical. Loving your comment 'just pandering to the ego of people making work in the fear that reviewers will lose their free ticket privileges' though. 'Pandering' is such an underused word. And 'ego'? There's few on display on this thread :-)
Not puzzled at all March 18th, 2014
To Simon and the Puzzled ones : - profoundest thanks for taking the time and energy to put into words what so many of us feel; you’ve done our little theatre world a great service. No one I know pays the remotest attention to reviews on this site; nor do they bother to complain, as the only thanks people get for critical contributions or debate-starters are personal insults, cries of ‘coward’ for using a pseudonym (the Smythe dynasty’s principal tactic when trying to bat away opposing views) or dismissal on the grounds of their own personal definitions of ‘a well constructed case’.
I suggest that the Smythes’ habit of dismissing contributors they disagree with who use a pseudonym as ‘cowards’ instead of taking it on the chin and addressing their views respectfully, is the height of cowardice.
They are also beyond hope if they don’t appreciate that the only way that honest, brave, professional debate about the troubling state of theatre in this tiny community is going to thrive is by employing every strategy we can to ensure that the issues are addressed, and not the man attacked. Permission to be anonymous is essential - we’ve got to stop worrying about WHO said what, and start respecting WHAT was said and encouraging robust discussion, not trying to shut it down and humiliate the poster with insults, as the Smythes predictably attempt to do here. Every other online arts debate site I know of welcomes pseudonyms and criticism generously. What is wrong with the Smythes?
Far from your argument being ‘derailed’ by ‘hyperbolic exaggerations’ (pot/kettle, Mr Smythe?) I thought you remarkably restrained, given the provocations - but as for having any effect, I don’t like your chances. So please, please start a Shit on your Play site and provide serious artists with a welcoming outlet before we lose our health! Or even better, ‘Shit on the Arts’ - and let’s cover the lot. I would pay good money!
Also puzzled March 17th, 2014
Fair call on the anonymity thing. But hey, I think if I used my real name it might suggest a bias that could undermine the point I am trying to make. And feel free to call me a coward - I guess I care about this issue, but not enough to actively debate it in anything other than a few posts here and there.
For the record, I am not intolerant of the work of others. I see a lot of theatre, and I enjoy a lot of theatre. There is a lot of really good work out there. And some really bad work. And work that is done by people who could be good, but are still figuring things out or dealing with limited resources or whatever. I am constantly amazed that anyone ever gets a show on outside of the recurrently funded companies, and think the culture of experimentation in this country is to be applauded, and could be far better supported.
My beef is not with the work. I know how hard it is to get a show on, and I'm not interested in tearing down work just for the sake of it.
My problem is with the way that work is represented in reviews and (to an extent) the self-congratulatory culture that exists around work in this country.
In my opinion, just getting a show on isn't enough. There needs to be a higher level of rigour in the way that show is viewed, discussed and reviewed to enable artists and the work they create to grow. I am glad to hear that reviewers on this site are discussing "being too nice" in house. Any examination of how work is reviewed is probably a really good thing. If the purpose of this site is just to enshrine shows for the historical record, then reviews that often amount to little more than glorified plot summaries are probably sufficient. It's just odd that the Theatreview (which positions itself as the main hub for theatre reviews) produces critical analysis that is often inferior to that provided by non specialist sites - The Pantograph Punch and Lumiere Reader spring to mind. Interestingly, the review for Sea on Pantograph hews more closely to the Metro opinion, although it's not as harsh.
And for the record, I have never met Simon Wilson so wouldn't dare to presume anything about why he reviewed Sea the way he did. Just that his experience married up very closely with mine and my companion on the day and several other people that saw it on the same day. However, his ecstatic review for Daffodils on at Q (which really is very very good and needs to be seen by anyone and everyone who cares about NZ storytelling) indicates that not only does he have heart, but he's not afraid to wear it on his sleeve when the show has earned it.
nik smythe March 17th, 2014
The issue of Theatreview being 'too nice' is in fact currently under discussion among the personnel. The myriad factors involved with what ends up on a review are endless, but in the short term I can vouch to having no vested interest, personal or otherwise, in talking up substandard work put on by any compnay, friends, associates or otherwise. I do have a personal interest in supporting the industry, and to this end I agree with the assertion that the industry is better supported by rigorous critical analysis rather than polite pandering. I stand by everything I've said in my reviews.
I think what Dad (Michael) was alluding to was not simply that Mr Wilson criticises the work, but in fact condemns it, even to the point that he believes futher development has no chance of saving it. Even this is a valid impression, yet it's noteworthy it contradicts not only Theatreview's inhouse review, but every other one too. Again, I don't begrudge the reviewer's prerogative in calling it as he sees it. What I am curious to know is, given his view is that there's no heart to get, whereas the others found a most palpable heart, what does Mr Wilson attribute their experience too. Have they been brainwashed or conned somehow? Or does this work speak to a place in the heart that not every individual possesses?
John Smythe March 17th, 2014
Your hyperbolic exaggerations almost derail the validity of what you are saying, ‘Also puzzled’. But I do get the guts of your argument. Given you are calling our reviewers gutless it’s a shame you don’t have the guts to comment under your own name. (It is a basic principle of Theatreview that reviewers are as publicly accountable as those they review and we do encourage commenters to do the same.)
I take it you are a practitioner and I am very aware of how intolerant many theatre people can be of the work of others, which is fine; that’s just how it is with some creative talents. Some of the best actors and/or directors I know are almost pathologically incapable of sitting through other people’s shows. That’s fine – and if someone wants to start a blog that represents that perspective, go for it.
Your suggestion that Theatreview critics might be “just pandering to the ego of people making work in the fear that reviewers will lose their free ticket privileges” is fatuous in the extreme, has no foundation whatsoever, and pretty well exemplifies the sort of back-biting theatrical bitchiness I personally find to be the least attractive aspect of the performing arts scene.
Theatreview has published plenty of negative reviews and no-one has ever been dropped or denied access to a theatre as a result. There was an infamous occasion when someone expressed an opinion rather than a well-constructed case for it (i.e. a review) and we mutually parted our ways.
As managing editor I make no directive to critics, other than to please represent the experience in the present tense, because it is (a)live theatre. Because we have no funds to pay critics, those who are willing to review for the princely reward of two comps tend to share a love of good theatre. They are just as likely to resent a bad experience as celebrate a good one. What makes them good reviewers is their ability to write about it in a constructive way.
Also puzzled March 17th, 2014
Well, Michael, it does come across as insulting especially when you imply that there is something wrong with a reviewer for not giving a show a favourable review. Newsflash - a lot of the work that graces the NZ stage isn't great, and some of it is downright appalling. Not that you would know it from this site which generally labels everything a "masterpiece," "brilliant" or "a triumph." The amount of times I have walked out of a show that was turgid, under rehearsed, poorly directed and weakly designed only to read on here that the people making it are at the top of their game is astounding. Are people's standards really that low?
I have a huge amount of respect for someone like Matt Baker who tells it like it is (and commented above), but am bemused at the amount of flak he receives for articulating in print what most people are just saying about shows in private. In the (admittedly limited) theatrical circles I move in I have literally not heard a single positive word said about recent shows like Sea or Girl in Tan Boots (which I was going to see based on the reviews, but have decided against based on the recommendation of several friends), yet the Theatreview review practically labels them both as the second coming. Last year, the talk of the town was Lucy Lawless and her trainwreck of a performance that almost derailed the otherwise really good Chicago, but not a single reviewer had the guts to actually say what everyone was saying in the bar after the show - she simply wasn't very good.
A site like this serves no purpose if reviewers are just pandering to the ego of people making work in the fear that reviewers will lose their free ticket privileges, and if they really are so undiscerning as to be able to produce a valid critical response to a work (the operative word here being "critical") then their contribution to the artistic conversation is pretty much pointless.
One of my favourite sites is Shit on Your Play, a Sydney based blog that is "designed to give an honest and forthright opinion on the Sydney theatre scene. No more watered down reviews but gritty tell it like it is critiques." For the love of God can someone start something like that here? The best part of that site is that when she likes a show, her positive review actually means something and isn't just more white noise in the void of critical response.
Michael Smythe March 15th, 2014
Not intended as an insult - just a statement of fact.
The fact that the other three reviews were enthusiastic suggests that the was something to 'get' - but I guess you have to be open to the subject matter and POV (as Simon clearly was with Daffodils). As others have said, we learn which reviwers share our sensibilities.
Unfortunately I did not get to the show, but what's great (and unique?) about Theatreview is that we can compare reviews easily and appreciate each production on some level anyway. (I am as unbiased about my twin bro's work as Judith Colins is about the quality of her hubby's NZ milk in China).
Matt Baker March 14th, 2014
Yes, we all see shows differently.
Yet we put our trust in critics to be able to evaluate art given their informed knowledge and experience, and to articulate their thoughts accordingly.
Personally, I’ve disagreed with some things Simon Wilson has written in the past, but, even in those moments, I totally respect his point of view, because he is clear and concise in his writing, and clearly has a great amount of knowledge when it comes to theatre. He is one of the few reviewers I truly respect.
A friend once told me that they’ve read enough of my reviews to know my taste and whether, if I liked something whether they would also like it, if I liked something whether they wouldn’t like it, and vice versa. Find the critics whose words you trust, regardless of whether you agree with them or not, and follow them. There’s no point complaining about the others. They will fall by the wayside eventually.
Interestingly, I never received a comment on a review I’ve posted that was positive, only on the negative ones.
Raewyn Whyte March 11th, 2014
We all see a different show, predicated on a number of very personal factors to do with ways of seeing theatre, ideas in our heads, self-imposed frames on our eyes etc etc.
And so the SEA I experienced differs from the one Simon Wilson saw.
For me the the show has a gentle narrative drive, at least four clearly differentiated characters (mother, father, son, turtle) and ensemble; and there is a degree of catharsis in the finale if you have been following events involving turtles (who fulfil many roles -- rescuer, guide, symbol of healthy sea life, symbol of sealife under threat, sacrifical objectto man's greed) -- lost-boy-now-man-betrayed-by-men and cast ashore again, starting a new life with baby turtles...
Also puzzled March 10th, 2014
Yeah, it's a bit insulting of Michael to dismiss Simon's review by saying he "didn't get it." Simon Wilson is the arts editor of Metro, so he probably did get it. He's just articulating very clearly and very generously his opinion of what is missing from the show. Dismissing a negative review by saying the reviewer "didn't get it" is pretty childish. Have you seen the show Michael? I have, and Simon's review is bang on the money. Guess I didn't get it either?
Puzzled March 10th, 2014
So if a reviewer delivers a positive review than he "gets it" but if the review is negative than they are the one at fault?
Michael Smythe March 8th, 2014
Interesting - Johnny Givins' review begins with "Red Leap's latest masterpiece ..." and ends with "... has the hallmarks of an international creative hit. Expect to see SEA at international festivals around the globe." Seems like Johnny got it and Simon did not.
Actors as athletes and artists
Review by Johnny Givins 08th Mar 2014
Red Leap’s latest masterpiece, SEA, creates the magical world of our ocean. From the first moments of transformation by huge silk drapes the stage becomes the multidimensional aqua world as an ensemble of nine actors create – by movement, images and honest dramatic moments – a saga fit for the epic storybook.
It is uniquely a Pacific story. It is the sea as we know it. It has Pacific Island songs, sound and images. It has Maori ihi, wehi and wana. It has Asian elements. It has industry and plastic as well as the tumble of our surf and the anger of our storms.
The ensemble is physically impressive as they jump, twirl and fly, becoming the images of waves in a storm … Then suddenly they are Pacific Islanders tossed in a violent storm which demolishes their homes and family. Abandoned to the waves, the storyline develops as they face survival on the sea.
Red Leap has chosen a huge canvas for this show. It is variously confusing, literal, surreal and poetic. Best advice is to sit back and let the performance wash over you, as these leaders in Physical Theatre work their magic.
Directors Julie Nolan and Kate Parker have cleverly manipulated the simplest of props to create believable images with only a smattering of actual spoken works. They take the audience on a fluid seascape moving around the raft from a 360 degree perspective. One moment, by the manipulation of wooden planks, we are on the side of the raft, then under it, then diving into the deep sea.
It is under the water that the magic of the Red Leap Theatre’s SEA comes to life. Actors dive into the sea as other actors catch them and manipulate their bodies as they swim, dive and drift away to watery graves. We meet schools of fish, jelly fish, sea horses, cute baby turtles, a giant sharks, a huge whale and the queen of the sea – a giant turtle.
It is all done with actors manipulating the human and puppet elements so that the audience ‘sees’ the image and follows the action. It is a Kiwi development of the ancient Japanese Bunraku Puppets theatrical style, where life size puppets are manipulated by black clad actors. However here there is no attempt to hide the actors in SEA and it mostly works extraordinarily well.
The magical story is centred on the baby of a woman on the raft who falls overboard as he is fascinated by a baby turtle. As in all good children stories, the turtle saves his life and the boy, as in good myths, lives with the turtles as the little turtle grows into a huge queen of the ocean: his sea turtle mother.
The baby is a puppet (manipulated by actors) transforms into a youth puppet and finally into a grown young man – now a real, handsome, muscled, fluid actor – who is at home in the sea. As in all good myths the boy is fished up by the raft people and is reunited with his family. However this is a Red Leap Theatre show; it all turns sour when human greed and avarice lead to the dramatic climax.
It is a strange story which works on several levels. Most importantly the human level Mother/Father, Father/Son, Mother/Son sequences are emotionally fulfilling. The raft sequences capture anxiety, desperation, love of rain, and violent explosions very effectively. Unfortunately these poor people on the raft never really learn anything from their experience. There seems to be no dramatic personal voyage. The ensemble becomes images and puppets of a directorial viewpoint. I am ready for something more powerful.
Red Leap has created a unique theatrical experience. Claire Cowan’s sound design and composition is imaginative and creates dramatic texture for the ensemble action. Elizabeth Whiting’s costumes, as we have seen from this artist before, are creative, imaginative and practical. The puppets’ design and construction by Bec Ehlers, Ryan Attwood and Kate Parker are imaginative and stunning visual delights.
The lighting design by Vanda Karolczak could do more to highlight the action and focus the audience on the differing sea depths and physical situation the story explores. I imagine this could develop as the production gains international exposure and theatre time (and money).
Antonia Stehlin as the mother, Leroy Lakamu as the father, and Dahnu Graham as their grown child, give the story focus and emotional depth. The total cast of nine actors ( the others being Ella Becroft, Jade Daniels, Min Kim, Moko Smith, Shadon Meredith and Tom Eason) are constantly involved with the dramatic truth of each situation and working to create the magical illusions and settings for the action. As actors, athletes and artists, they are all focussed, disciplined, interactive and frothing with creative energy.
This is a production which has had time to develop, grow and mature. It is a credit to the funders and supporters of Red Leap that they can maintain this important creative company. Other Red Leap productions such as The Arrival and Paper Sky gave new dimensions to our theatrical experience and have since travelled the world to deserved acclaim.
Although SEA is a young creative production it has the hallmarks of an international creative hit. Expect to see SEA at international festivals around the globe.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer