CBS Canterbury Arena, Christchurch

14/11/2013 - 14/11/2013

Wellington Town Hall, Wellington

11/03/2013 - 15/03/2013

Auckland Town Hall, Auckland

08/11/2013 - 08/11/2013

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

A young girl named Skylark becomes embroiled in a prophecy which sees her embark on a dazzling trip into the past to save our future. This new symphonic piece was composed by Gareth Farr specifically for a young audience. Myth transforms into a legendary performance, inspired by Witi Ihimaera’s novel Sky Dancer

This work shows off the full orchestral sound in all its glory. Let your imagination take flight with puppetry, projections and performers completing the epic visual staging. Sky Dancer is the perfect introduction to classical music.

“A stunning panorama in sound that captures beautifully this evocative story.” Grant Cooper, conductor.

Sky Dancer aims to bring to the world of classical music a work that engages the young in the beauty of the symphonic sound through a composition that has a true New Zealand voice. Hence we approached Gareth Farr to compose a work inspired by the novel of the same name by acclaimed author Witi Ihimaera, mix that with the bringing together of two of the nation’s national touring arts organisations, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the National Theatre for Children and you will have an experience never to be forgotten.” Stephen Blackburn, Creative Producer

Education Dates: Mon 11 – Fri 15 March 2013
Public Show: 6pm Fri 15 March
Wellington Town Hall
Friday 15 March, 6pm
50 mins
Ages: 7-14 Years 

Sky Dancer

Auckland Town Hall
8 November 2013, 1pm

CBS Canterbury Arena
Thursday 14 November 2013, 1pm (1hr)
Bookings at or call 0800 842 538

Sky Dancer in pictures


Chelsea Bognuda
Tanea Heke
Manuel Solomon
Joe Dekkers-Reihana

Designer – Penny Fitt
Av Design – Johann Nortje
Lighting Design – Jason Morphett 

Bold step not fully achieved

Review by Elizabeth O’Connor 15th Nov 2013

Busloads of children assemble with excited anticipation to hear and see a full New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in action, alongside agile and dedicated performers from Capital E National Theatre for Children.  A late start to the programme does not stop the large audience oohing and ahhing over the dramatic blackout and slow emergence of light and sound which begin the work. 

Gareth Farr’s music, played with sensitivity and with sweeping power when the sombre score requires it, is the highlight of this collaboration.  There are long, sustained builds, where textures move seamlessly from one part of the orchestra to another, and a handful of stunning climaxes, where the musical peaks are enhanced by impressive manipulation of paper birds and Johan Nortje’s projections on the rear screen.  At these times, children around me comment with awe and delight. 

At other times, children become twitchy, struggling to see and engage with the human figures scattered among the vast and omnipotent orchestra.  For the last twenty minutes of the piece, many are audibly restless. 

The venue and staging do not help.  Most of the children are a long way from what is happening on the stage, and much of what ‘happens’ is behind the bulk of the players, and often dimly lit.  The effect at times is that the movement and chanting, whether in Māori or in English, appear cobbled on rather than integral to the music. 

There are a moments when it all comes together – musical notes falling in meteor showers onto the stage, a conflation of stars, birds and aspirations, a prophetic vision of desolate landscapes with stunted and toppled trees.  Too often, the elements one might call ‘story’ are obscure or sentimentalised, and constantly overpowered by the sheer weight of the orchestra.

Sky Dancer represents a bold step towards integrating theatrical evocation with musical structure and the reality of a live orchestra.  While the integration is not fully achieved here, I hope there will be many more steps taken along this rich pathway, by these and other artists.


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Fantastical, haunting, astounding

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 09th Nov 2013

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei. 

So it is said, so it becomes. 

With his 2004 novel Sky Dancer, iconic New Zealand authorWiti Ihimaera aimed for the stars and tried something new and exciting. Reviews at the time were mixed but all agreed on one thing: the work was epic in proportion. Some critics said it was just too epic, some that the connection between the naturalistic world of the main character Skylark and the universal theme was too unforgiving, some just didn’t like it and some did. 

Capital E National Theatre for Children has taken Ihimaera’s work and commissioned a largely expressionistic piece that, according the programme, “might replace Peter and the Wolf in the repertoire for New Zealand orchestras to introduce young audiences to the magic that is orchestral music.” It’s an interesting goal and I’d suggest what they’ve actually created – in wonderful collaboration with the NZSO and the ever-astonishing Gareth Farr – is an alternative rather than a replacement.

Kids will be introduced to the orchestra and its machinations, certainly, but it will always be ‘the story comes first’ and in this Peter and the Wolf and Sky Dancer are, mercifully, poles apart. There’s definitely a place for both and Sky Dancer is a magnificent addition to the orchestral repertoire. No surprises there as, after all, the work is by the passionate, talented, whimsical and fanatical Gareth Farr, and I am, and have always been, an unashamed fan of everything he does. 

This production sees the NZSO at its spectacular best under the baton of Grant Cooper, whose other job is as Artistic Director of the West Virginia Symphony in the United States. Cooper is great, the orchestra respond to him with subtlety and a delightful joie de vivre and it’s exciting that he’s back in Aotearoa New Zealand even if it’s just for quite a short time. 

The interface between the actors of Capital E and the artists of the orchestra is nicely managed and warmly collaborative but, because of the nature of the staging and the venue, there is a sense that the spoken, chanted, acted and sung elements of the narrative are secondary to the music though this is clearly not the intention. I’m sure that in other venues this won’t be the case. 

There is no set, per se, for this performance, simply a large, sail-like screen high at the back of the stage on which are projected many rich and varied images (Johann Nortje). There are seven raised platforms, each higher than the one before, and a set of stairs that rises from stage level to the highest possible spot and which separates the stage – and therefore the orchestra – into two equal sections.

The performance begins with all the usual conventions of an orchestral concert. Conductor Cooper enters to sustained applause from an audience most of whom are under twelve years old and for whom this may well be their first such experience. The Town Hall is mostly full and there is a delicious air of expectation.

The theatre goes to black and the lights ease up like a summer sunrise accompanied by the fabulous textures of Gareth Farr’s exhilarating score.  The stage is washed suddenly with blue light dotted throughout with paisley patterned gobs of white and we’re underway.

The kuia storyteller (an enigmatic Tanea Heke) appears at the top of the stairs and the central character Skylark (Chelsea Bognuda) appears at the bottom.  The opening vocal soundscape is part spoken, part sung and Cooper’s subtle conducting leads the orchestra, the actors and the audience into the story.  We’re in Aotearoa New Zealand, of that there is no doubt, as every aural and visual coding, whether overt or subliminal, screams this at us and hair stands to attention on the backs of necks.

The Sky Dancer narrative is loosely based on Witi Ihimaera’s rhapsodic novel, a work that lends itself perfectly to adaption in exactly the manner necessary to interact with Farr’s glorious score. Heke represents all the old ways and Bognuda the contemporary and the two meld seamlessly into a whole. There’s a wee hint of Bruce Mason in the house and that’s no bad thing, no bad thing at all. 

There can be no doubt that, for those who have taken the time to read and digest Ihimarea’s evocative novel, the account created by Capital E National Theatre for Children will make perfect literal sense.  For those who have not – and I suspect many of the children in the audience and possibly some of their teachers will have yet to experience this pleasure – the somewhat surreal, interpretive journey, connected as it is by fantastical, haunting images will make a different, but equally satisfying, sort of sense and, of course, there is always Farr’s astounding music.

Not that making sense of the work is important, merely that reading the book and experiencing the production are – and perhaps should be – two quite different things. 

The text is lyrical, suggestive, passionate and, at times, downright angry but always splendidly performed with Bognuda as Skylark being the absolute standout. She manages to present a modern girl with all the ruses that connect with her young audience while at the same time being a larger than life wahine toa, a warrior princess in red sneakers and a plaid shirt. 

Heke, who initiates and drives the narrative, is a powerful and resilient environmental presence being at one moment Papatuanuku and at another owning the air. Heke, always the most empathic of actors, is absolutely perfect in this role. 

All the performers use the restricted space well, with musical manuscripts turned into flights of birds as actors engage with musicians and inspire their involvement to ensure that the production integrates all its component parts wonderfully. Performers – actors, puppeteers and musicians – move invisibly around the performance area in ways that guarantee the focus of the young audience is never distracted. 

The on-screen images range from naturalistic feathers dropping to the ground that are ritually replaced by musical notes through to much more expressionistic shapes, suggestive patterns and expressive colours and each articulates an additional dimension of the music, the text and the performance and all work in splendid harmony. 

Farr’s music ranges across the aural milieu from powerful atmospheric thunderings to the most beautifully nuanced bird song as though they had been composed by some god of the environment with powers yet to be harnessed by humankind. By this I mean it is very, very good indeed. Even his silences are textured. 

Ihimaera’s cultural vision is powerful enough to enable him to credibly tear holes in the universe through which flocks of birds appear and disappear and these images are successfully reproduced in Sky Dancer by quite remarkable puppets of all types orchestrated by Chris Covich, who constructed them, and the splendid (but unnamed) puppeteers which include, from time to time, orchestral players. 

The advent of mankind is manifest by two warriors, one armed with a taiaha and another with a musket (Manuel Solomon and Joe Dekkers-Reihana) and their coming is heralded – and accompanied – by Farr at his ominous and percussive best.

There are magnificent images worthy of mention: a broken violin handled by Bognuda with a delicacy befitting a new-born; a fantastical fantail that appears from nowhere and is ultimately dismantled; a heron-like bird engulfed fatally in shreds of yellow plastic … All of these, and many more, explode in the brain giving birth to their own progeny.

The climax builds to a glorious chant performed by Heke and Bognuda, during which the latter collects the windblown manuscripts and gently returns them to the players. During this coda Farr is at his very, very best with a haunting fragment for cellos and viola that hangs in the air like the spirits of gulls. Bells toll, Skylark collects the broken violin which has replaced the dead heron and this incredibly powerful taonga is exchanged and passed on.

Heke adorns Skylark with her korowai and it is clear that success has been achieved, duty done and that the human issues of Ihimaera’s Sky Dancer have been resolved. They don’t concern us in this production and well they might not as this work is for kids and it’s not necessary to tell all. What is told, however, is splendidly executed and Bognuda ends the work where Heke began it; the puppet birds live, mankind is beautifully lit (Jason Morphett) in two solo spots and the whole production comes to a splendid end 56 minutes after it began, which is perfect timing for a young person’s concentration span. 

The young audience was attentive throughout and, by my estimation, excited by what they saw and engaged in a piece they intuitively knew had been created especially for them.

The nagging question, with a work largely expressionistic in nature and played outside the conventions of a standard production for children, must be did they understand what they experienced. The eleven year old young man who accompanied me to Sky Dancer certainly did and has talked about it consistently – and insistently – for the last 24 hours, affirming my belief that, when presenting performance art to children, we should never underestimate their capacity for intellectual and intuitive engagement.

Sky Dancer, in conventional terms, has a flimsy naturalistic narrative but, inside that, there is a transcendent, earthy logic that kids simply get. I guess it’s in their cultural DNA and Capital E has understood this well and capitalised on it to everyone’s benefit.   

One minor niggle: the show might have been for children and there may have been a need to get them all back to their respective schools but the haste with which bussing announcements were made after the performance and before the orchestra had even left the stage failed to allow the youngsters even a moment of quiet reflection after what had been, in many ways a genuinely moving experience.


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Sky Dancer soars in powerful multimedia work

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 21st Mar 2013

If ever there was a production that encapsulates every aspect of performance art then Sky Dancer is it.

Labelled “An Epic Symphonic Story” the collaboration between Capital E National Theatre For Children and the NZ Symphony Orchestra premiered during Capital E’s National Arts Festival For Children.

There are multi-media projections, amazing puppetry, actors in wonderfully choreographed sequences and of course the Symphony Orchestra all combining harmoniously to create what is a truly amazing piece of theatre. 

The idea for Sky Dancer comes from Witi Ihimaera’s novel of the same name but rather than being an adaption, it is the imagery from the novel that has inspired Creative Producer Stephen Blackburn and Composer Gareth Farr, who along with Director Sara Brodie and Designer Penny Fitt, have created an exceptional piece of work.

Pre historic sea birds battle it out over the land with the land birds for food and resources over seen by a kuia (Tanea Heke).

Then it is the future and a young girl, Skylark (Chelsea Bognuda), is seen rescuing a white heron covered with plastic bags. She is taken in hand by the kuia and the future merges with the past as Skylark endeavours to bring peace to the sparing warriors (Manuel Solomon and Joe Dekkers-Reihana).

Although there are many elements of the production that are mystifying as to their meaning, the combination of all the artistic elements over comes any confusion that arises from the action, and the sheer originality and creativity of the piece makes it totally engaging.

Yet much of this must be attributed to the NZSO, which, under the baton of ex-pat Grant Cooper, played superbly, producing highly charged moments of powerful music that soared to great heights like the birds overhead but which then brought out great moments of tranquillity when necessary. 

The music continually underscored the actions of the puppets and actors and added much to the imagery created by them.  And the Conductor and players were not averse to joining in, periodically waving large white sheets of paper in the air to form flocks of birds flying over the stage making these but one of many memorable moments of this extraordinary piece.  


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Keeping the story secret … Why?

Review by John Smythe 09th Mar 2013

“So what’s the story?” my partner asks as we settle into the seats we have chosen, about four rows back on the Town Hall’s flat floor but behind small children, so we’ll get a good view of the orchestra. There are steps leading up to a lectern beneath a sail-like screen that stretches across the pipe organ. We’re guessing we’ll see things well from here.

The story … The programme cover tells us it’s “an epic symphonic story”. Inside, the Creative Team credits tell us (in this order) it is conducted by Grant Cooper, directed by Sara Brodie, composed by Gareth Farr, and “inspired by the novel by Witi Ihimaera”. I search in vain through the 14 pages for some hint of the story. Ah well, no doubt all will be revealed …

I confess Sky Dancer (2003) is one of the few Ihimaera novels I have not read but I believe any adaptation – or, as in this case, a production “inspired by” – should speak for itself and not rely on prior knowledge.  

Had I recalled the media release info I uploaded to the production page some time ago (this being a very busy time for Theatreview), I’d have found this: “A young girl named Skylark becomes embroiled in a prophecy which sees her embark on a dazzling trip into the past to save our future.”

The programme’s “Kia ora” message from Stephen Blackburn, Creative Producer with Capital E National Theatre for Young People, includes this: “The gestation of this project goes back five years to when the then Education Manager at the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and I, discussed over a coffee the idea of creating an orchestral piece that might supplant works such as Peter and the Wolf in the repertoire for New Zealand orchestras to introduce young audiences to the magic that is orchestral music.”

What an admirable objective! Sergei Prokofiev’s musical story Peter and the Wolf (1936) is a wonderfully clear introduction to musical instruments which, as individual ‘characters’ with distinctive sounds, come together as an orchestra to manifest the story being told simultaneously by a narrator. And once the story has been heard a few times, we can listen to the music and fully appreciate how the components make up the whole without needing the words.

And so it begins, with strings and wind instruments … an a-rhythmic chaos, as a night sky projection plunges us into deep space … until clouds return us to this planet – and real feathers fall from the sky. A book on the lectern seems to turn its pages by itself … puppet piwakawaka (fantails) – well the tails, anyway – begin to flit about … And pages of musical score fly bird-like in the air as a cloaked kuia (Tanea Heke) ascends the step to the far-away lectern – and musical quavers fall spectacularly down the screen …

John Nortje’s projection designs are superb, likewise Penny Fitt’s design elements and the ‘puppetry’ of the performers – Heke, Chelsea Bognuda, Manuel Solomon and Joe Dekkers-Reihana – all contributing to the visual spectacle as the beautifully conceived and executed music swells and soars …

Now that we have been tantalised by music, myth and mystery, this surely is the time the Kuia, as our guide, will add words to the auditory and visual imagery … But no. The clearer it becomes that the performers and the musicians – who also participate by waving and throwing sheet music from time to time – are privy to, and deeply immersed in, a very meaningful story, the more apparent it becomes that we are to be given no access to it.

What with the orchestra in the foreground, ever-changing projected images in the background and live performers at work in various places, there’s lots going on and it’s hard to know where to look, let alone what to make of the action and imagery that emerges and arises from the music. But I’ll give it a go …

Bird-headed warriors (Solomon and Dekkers-Reihana) confront each other across the divide, one brandishing a taiaha, the other a musket. Are we talking musket wars or colonial land wars here? And should we be able to recognise those bird heads? There are two magnificent birds aloft, too, with prehistoric heads and the neck and scroll of a double-bass (or cello) as their tailpieces. Is this all ‘prehistory’ or are different eras being juxtaposed?

A very large fan, wielded by the women, obviously has some significance and at various times Solomon brandishes a large bird beak while Dekkers-Reihana carries a large bird’s claw. They look a bit uncertain as to what to do with them. Is this intentional?

While I am happy to sit here trying to decode the imagery, such conscious thinking detracts from my ability to abandon myself to the music as I might if I had some clues as to the story unfolding. (By way of comparison, at chamber music concerts, when a new piece is premiered, someone usually introduces it in a way that gives the audience a steer as to its rationale.)

I do not see the mysteries attending the imagery as leaving us free to make it all mean what we like. It’s clear an agreed meaning is hidden in there somewhere and I am feeling left behind, left out, uninvited …

When a young woman (Chelsea Bognuda) comes up the aisle in contemporary outdoor clothing and nursing a kotuku (white heron) entangled in fishing line and bits of plastic rubbish, I welcome the dramatic clarity of a person relating to something in a way that implies a quest; a problem to be solved.

It is hard to see exactly what’s happening when she lays it on the ground behind the conductor but it seems she’s disentangling it. Then the conductor hands her sheet music with which she covers it. Ah, so music is the healing agent? Will it recover or is it already dead?

Aloft, the Kuia chants/sings a karanga/waiata – a lament? – in te reo as the girl carries a broken violin … Does this represent the bird or is it something else again? It cannot signify the death of music because that plays on in fine and healthy fettle. The Kuia descends and walks around them but there is no eye-contact so I take it they are on separate planes.

On screen, zig-zag patterns alert us to … what? Flocks of white moths ascend … The girl has a torch now and is searching for something … A clever device here makes it look as if she is shining her torch on ancient earthen walls.

Now the music soars to new crescendos as the on-screen sun is eclipsed, molten lava leaps, the warriors face off again and the bass-birds fly … accompanied by more karanga/waiata …

The girl is aloft and the magic of shadow puppetry brings the fan, the beak and the claw together to create a whole-looking bird of the screen. She takes on the karanga/waiata as her own (impressive vocals from Bognuda, here) and the catastrophic imagery is replaced by floating, drifting and dissolving sheet music … The pages the musician have flung about are picked up by the girl and returned to them. She shows the broken violin to the warrior birds – and once more books of sheet music are on the wing …

It’s hard to see, even from the fourth row, but I think I see that the violin is whole again. But the kotuku is dead. And the golden sky could be a sunset or sunrise. But the girl is given the cloak, she hongis the Kuia, ascends the stairs – and some sort of resolution /redemption / salvation has been achieved.

At the after-function one of the many speeches reveals that the four actors have played the Kuia (got that), Skylark (the girl), Land Bird and Sea Bird, and I think even that much in the programme would have given us some points of reference. I also hear that each of the music’s movements has a name. Had they, too, been listed we’d have had a sense of narrative structure … 

When I get home, I check out the Penguin Global book blurb:
“Stroppy teenager Skylark O’Shea is on holiday with her mother at a town on the coast. But all is not what it seems. What is the threat facing the town and the birds of the forest? Where do the two old charismatic Maori women Hoki and Bella fit in? Skylark becomes embroiled in a prophecy which, much to her dismay, involves her in an extraordinary journey. Soon she is pitting her wits in a race of breathtaking dimension, a dazzling trip through Maori mythology.” 

I assume that what I have seen this night is so far removed from the novel, that that’s why the credit is “inspired by” rather than “adapted by” – which figures, because among all the creative credits there is no playwright or dramaturg mentioned. Who then, devised this scenario?

Today I request, and receive, The Educational Resource kit. The synopsis contained therein (see below) reveals that despite eliminating a number of characters and complexities, it has sought to extract the essence of Ihimaera’s story into a manageable theatrical narrative. And as I suggested in my review of Capital E’s Hear to Sea in their 2011 National Arts Festival, the presentation tail has again wagged the storytelling dog.

The 2013 Festival brochure says Sky Dancer is suitable for 7-14 year olds and many schools performances have been scheduled ahead of next Friday’s public performance. The question is, should the students be required to read and remember the synopsis below before they go to the show, or should the production reveal the story within the performance? My vote is firmly for the latter, no question.

The last three pages of the 34-page resource kit names the eight movements, suggests what to look out for in each and colour-codes which instruments are involved, related to a final page map of the orchestra. Is all this to be committed to memory before the show starts too, or will students be looking at it during the performance?

With all the resources at its disposal and the undoubted talents it has brought together, and with so many components working wonderfully, I find it astonishing that Capital E should fail to deliver at such a fundamental level as basic storytelling. It is redeemable if a writer – Ihimaera, hopefully – is brought in to add words that will share the story with its audience. Until that happens it is light-years away from achieving anything like its stated ambition, to “supplant works such as Peter and the Wolf in the repertoire for New Zealand orchestras to introduce young audiences to the magic that is orchestral music.”

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE KIT – Synopsis (included here to prove there really is a coherent story motivating the sights and sounds):

In the beginning Ranginui (sky father) and Papatuanuku (earth mother) lie locked together in a tight embrace. They have many children all of which are male, who are forced to live in the cramped darkness between them. Tane (or Tane-mahuta) suggests that they push them apart, to let Rangi be as a stranger to them in the sky above while Papa will remain below to nurture them.

The great trees of the forest over which Lord Tane reigns, maintain this separation to this day. Lord Tane then fills the great forest by releasing all the birds from heaven. As they populate the forest they begin to bicker and fight over resources. In the end Tane intervenes and banishes half to the sea and the remainder to stay in the forest. The sea birds become jealous of the land birds and decide to wage war against them to claim their resources. 

A great battle ensues, watched over by Tane’s Hand Maiden, kaitiaki, protector of the great forest. She desperately tries to prevent a total devastation of the land and thus the extinction of the birds altogether. Lord Tane proclaims that the birds will be sent a “little chick” that may save them from the onslaught of this great battle. But there is in this time no sign of her.

We then meet young Skylark who is holidaying in Manu valley in the present day with her Auntie Hoki. Through her visit she is connecting to her long lost Maori roots. Auntie Hoki, who is the descendant of the Hand Maiden of Tane, has noticed that that young Skylark has a great affinity for the forest and for all creatures. Hoki watches as Skylark tends to a dying Kotoku caught in a fishing net and line that is slowly taking its life away. This combined with the forthcoming eclipse that Lord Tane foretold is to precede the time for the great battle makes Hoki believe Skylark is the “little chick”.

Hoki immediately sets about explaining Skylark’s destiny in preventing the great battle, and passes her the taonga of the hand maidens which is the claw of the hawk, the feather of the godwit, and the beak of the Kaka. Skylark is then sent to a cave known as the cathedral of the birds which is piled high with the bones of past birds. She climbs the pile and using the beak, the feather and the claw, transforms herself into a bird and flies through the rip in the sky that has now appeared and is allowing her to journey back to in the past, to the climax of the great battle.

Skylark arrives at the great papepae in the past and sings the karanga taught to her by Hoki to befriend the great chiefs of the land and sea bird iwi. She pleads with them to sue for peace as they face a far greater danger in the future, namely mankind. The chiefs agree and peace is won. Skylark returns to the cathedral of the birds where Hoki finds her and gifts the mantle of kaitiaki over to the young girl for future generations.  


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Amazing music and design – but what about the story?

Review by Thomasin McKenzie (age 12) 09th Mar 2013

I have never written a review of a show before. This one was a great way to start! 

What were the things I enjoyed most about the show? 

The music was amazing. I felt like it was taking me on a journey to a musical forest of my imagination. It was exciting from the moment I sat down in my chair and I got pulled in when the orchestra started playing. While the orchestra was warming up my 6 year old sister said: “It’s hurting my ears!” but then as the scary but magical music began she uncurled in her seat and listened all the way through.

I also loved the design and visual part of Skydancer. Images were projected on a screen stretched like a sail or a skin at the back of the huge room. It was amazing how most of the props were made out of paper. Animated sheaves of paper rose into the air… a cello-bird cast a shadow across the ceiling… a puppet-heron died from exposure to pollutants… Thanks to Mary Barber, my Suzuki piano teacher, I recognised the forest of quavers and musical notes on the screen! 

The images on the screen and the beautiful costumes and puppetry made the show very visual to match the richness of the storytelling in the music. I also loved the way all the people who were controlling the bird puppets moved in a way that made me feel they truly thought they were the birds. I really liked the cloak and thought the way they put the musical notes on it was beautiful. 

One thing I thought the special effects team could have done better was to make the pictures they showed at the end of dead birds and things a bit clearer because I couldn’t really tell what they were.

I was curious about Skylark O’Shea and I liked it when she came up front with the conductor. But us kids are shorter than grownups, so we couldn’t exactly see what was going on when the cast spent so long at the back of the stage amongst the orchestra!

I loved the moment the orchestra themselves waved huge pieces of paper as though they were a forest or an ocean.

The singing was beautiful as well.

In the programme Stephen Blackburn mentioned Peter and the Wolf. I thought the music was as rich as it is in Peter. But the difference is that in Peter and the Wolf the music is partnered by words to make the story deep. This show is taken from a book and I would have liked to hear or see some of Witi Ihimaera’s words in the show. 

All in all my overwhelming impression is that this was a great way to experience music and images. But as it is a show for kids I would have liked to understand the story more clearly. Now I am looking forward to reading the book!  


Sylvia Bagnall March 14th, 2013

Lovely writing - keep this reviewer on!

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