Ship Song

Shed 11, Wellington

12/03/2007 - 24/03/2007

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

Ake Ake Theatre Company

World Premiere

Ake Ake Theatre Company, New Zealand

After sold-out performances of Our Secret Garden at the 2005 Festival, Ake Ake Theatre Company returns with this brand new show.

We all come from somewhere; look back far enough and that somewhere was across an ocean, or over a sea. In this universal tale of crossing over, characters fly high and slither low as they tell of journeys to new horizons. People swim, sail and hunt within the depths, changing their lives forever.

Enjoy this spectacular large-scale theatrical circus performance filled with fun and drama, colour and darkness. Performed with live original music.

PUBLIC SHOWS: Sat 17 March, 11.30am & Sat 24 March, 10am

Theatre , Children’s ,

Exhilarating stuff

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 19th Mar 2007

Capital E’s National Arts Festival is once again allowing us to see top-notch theatre for children from around the world as well as showing us the best of local groups.

Using the long rectangular space of Shed 11 that they exploited so well two years ago for The Secret Garden, the Ake Ake Theatre Company takes us on an amazing Ship Song adventure to the mysterious sea where the last of the mermaids live. Captain Greed sails his ship, Corporate Greed, in search of the elusive mermaids – elusive because they know what humans are like – in competition with his old enemy Esmeralda Black.

On the way we hear sea shanties, and come across acrobatic musicians, enormously tall, mangy ancient underwater ghosts, and sailors who are into humorous suitcase juggling and tossing.

While the plot is at times a little confusing – it didn’t seem to worry the absorbed youngsters sitting near me – the acrobatic skills and the sheer energy of the performers dangling from ropes high above the stage or racing at top speed with long silken sheets spread out behind them the length of Shed 11 is exhilarating stuff.


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Magic, evocative and memorable

Review by Sarah Delahunty 12th Mar 2007

I have not had the pleasure of seeing any earlier works by the Ake Ake theatre company so come to the performance as fresh as any of the six year olds I am surrounded by.

The atmosphere inside Shed 11 is enticing – live drumming and ukulele and an array of ropes and nets hanging from the high ceiling plus suitcases and sailing ship models scattered over the stage.

And images continue to surprise and delight throughout the performance. The traverse stage space, which could have been problematical, adds a vastness to the scale of the ocean journey enhancing the movement and allowing the wonderful stilt walking moment to shine. The hauling of ropes, the ebb and flow of waves …

The story line is suitably slight – easily picked up in the few words spoken. And as often happens in the midst of wonderful live music, the words are sometimes hard to hear and always sound thin beside the instruments.

Set when the six year old audience "will have grandchildren of your own" Captain Greed is out to catch the last of the mermaids, having already dealt to the dolphins and whales. And Lily is a on a journey back to her where she came from – which is now an area of land under water due to global warming and the rise of the oceans.

Captain Greed fails in his mission and Lily gets to dance with her ancestors –  and we get to see the beautiful mermaids twist and sing on long ropes above us. I’m not sure how much the words of warning for our future come through to the children but the spectacle and mystery of movement and sound tell it’s own wordless story very effectively.

There does not seem to be a programme so I cannot put names to faces, but the entire cast are a versatile, talented and extremely fit bunch. Their dancing evokes waves, sailors, underwater worlds. The amazing trapeze-type work using ropes is wondrous – especially for me the image of a sailor in a hammock of rope, high in the mast, rocking slightly in the swell.  They leap constantly from one end of the long space to the other, juggling suitcases, lifting and twisting around each other, then dancing, then picking up an instrument to add to the soundscape.

There are several different percussion instruments, clarinet, recorder, tin whistle and trombone – to name a few – and the sound of mermaids singing is accomplished with violin bow drawn over a carpenters saw!

All in all, it is a magic, evocative and memorable creation, the live music and constantly changing images holding the young audience right till the end. You could almost smell salt in the air!


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