Spinning Mountain

Wellington Town Hall, Wellington

21/03/2007 - 22/03/2007

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

Directed by: Nina Nawalowalo
Composed by: I Wayan Gde Yudane & Gareth Farr
Puppetry directed by: I Kadek Setiawan & Rebekah Wild

Puppetry designed and directed by: I Kadek Setiawan
Librettist: Ketut Yuliarsa
Additional libretto: Gareth Farr


Enter the magical world of Mount Mandara , a fiery volcano whose sides glow with red embers and whose crater top is a dazzling source of brilliant light reaching to all corners of the sky. It is an old world where dragons fly, giant turtles carry mountains on their backs, demons battle immortals and beautiful goddesses rise from the sea. Artists from New Zealand and Bali have combined their talents to create this new innovative work especially for children and families.

What to expect:

Artform: Performance with shadow, animation and original live music for children and families.

Beautiful shadow puppets, projection and contemporary staging combined with an original score of gamelan music bring this traditional Balinese tale to life. You will witness the spinning of the mountain of fire, churning of the sea, the birth of the sun and moon, and the fight of good and evil. Directed by Nina Nawalowalo, composed by Gareth Farr and I Wayan Gde Yudane, libretto by Ketut Yuliarsa. With Puppetry directed by Kadek Budi Setiawan.

This production is suitable for people aged 8 and above.

Set design:   David Waller
Lighting design:   Nigel Percy
Production Manager:   Natasha James
Stage Manager:   Nga Larsen
Sound engineer:   Andrew Downes
Lighting operator:   Blair Ryan
Costume construction:   Susan Casey

Cast:  I Kadek Setiawan, Nathan Meister, Kenny King, Sarah Lineham
Musicians:  Gareth Farr, I Wayan Gde Yudane, Nicholas Hancox, Jeremy Fitzsimons

Theatre , Music , Children’s , Puppetry ,

1 hr, no interval

Lost in translation

Review by Lynn Freeman 28th Mar 2007

What a great idea – to meld Indonesian puppet theatre and gamelan music, a Pacific Island-New Zealand director and our own gamelan expert Gareth Farr to create a blended multi-cultural theatre work for Kiwi kids. Yet somehow something is lost in translation.

Of course this reviewer is not an eight year old, the target market, though I was entranced by the shadow puppetry (even having seen it before) and by the music (ditto).

In terms of action, it sounds like a Playstation game with the fate of the world at stake – epic battles between gods, demons, the elixir of life, the way humans are destroying their environment, and of course actual spinning mountains. The narrators are a father and son trying to find common ground.  There is naughty humour which the kids (and adults) love, but not nearly enough of it. While beautifully sung.  the songs aren’t exactly catchy. Too often the action drags, especially the big battle scene which is interminable – remembering there are only a few puppets and arrows which are used over and over and over and over again.

It’s beautifully and professionally directed and performed, but even with these unquestionably high production values it feels stretched beyond its natural duration.  It’s a 40 minute story not an hour long one, in other words. More laughs, less repetition, even some involvement for the littlies would make it more involving, but as it is this is a beautiful and rich production.


Make a comment

Fusion theatre at its best

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 23rd Mar 2007

It’s wonderful for Wellington that Capital E’s National Arts Festival is held here – and like my colleague Jennifer Shennan I’m proud to be a Wellingtonian because it is here – but it should really be touring the whole country for all to see and enjoy.

With Spinning Mountain Capital E has pulled out all the stops with a piece of shadow puppet theatre that is a joy to behold. With the skills and artistry of composers I Wayan Gde Yudane and Gareth Farr, of librettist Ketut Yiliasara, of puppet designers I Kadek Setiawan and Rebekah Wild and the overall direction of Nina Nawalowalo the telling of this ancient Balinese story is fusion theatre of a high order.

The story is simple enough with a small boy, who would much rather be watching American Idol, being led on an adventure in the middle of the night by his father who tells him how the world was once a place of harmony and how the demons nearly destroyed it all, but luckily the gods saved the day with the greedy demons being distracted by "the golden arches."

There are in-jokes (eclipse is spelt according to the father with a capital E), there are fierce battles, a cartoon-like chase across the countryside, a fiery volcano, and a giant turtle that carries a mountain on its back, and scenes of an Eden where a Balinese-looking tiger and kiwis and ordinary looking bunnies live with other animals.  The environmental message, the central theme of all children’s theatre these days, is strong but not pushed to excess.

And all this is done with just hand-held shadow puppets, the exciting gamelan music, and the overall taste and expertise of the artists involved. Bravo.


Make a comment

Still relevant ancient tale beautifully told

Review by Sarah Delahunty 20th Mar 2007

Spinning Mountain is a performance piece which tells a traditional Balinese legend through the use of walang kulit (shadow puppetry), with the music of the gamelan (Indonesian percussion orchestra). It is a well judged entertainment for young people, combining the magic of live music, light and shadows with just enough characters and humour to keep everyone engaged.

It is obvious all those involved in the creation of Spinning Mountain are experts.

The music is wonderful, supporting and enhancing the voices and images at all times with gentle mesmerizing rhythms or clashes of sound when required. Those close enough to the stage would have had a great opportunity to admire the musicians skill.

A central screen, flanked by two long white tepees of cloth, provide the backgrounds on which atmospheric images and lights appear, and on which we see the beautifully made and operated puppets. From the quiet beginnings of a father and son out tramping the hills to the final battle between gods and demons, the skill that goes into making and working these puppets is very evident.

Although a traditional myth dealing with the big issues of good and bad, balance and immortality, contemporary touches are enjoyed by the young audience. The little boy moans he is missing American Idol by spending the night out with his dad. And when his father tells him the ancient tale, we hear that the gods manage to distract the demons by magically creating a vision of the "golden arches" – which sends them rushing off for food! Not a child in the place would have been puzzled by that image!

The whole experience bring home to me the origins of many of today’s animation cartoon series. The experience is bigger and better because it is live, but the two dimensional moving images with soundtrack scenario seem one the audience is familiar with, and a very appropriate one for telling a story to this age group. Despite all the technology involved in today’s cartoon making, I feel that children who grew up with only shadow puppetry for entertainment wouldn’t have missed out on anything.

All in all, the different strands of modern and ancient, live and technically produced, flow into an entrancing event. The final spinning of the mountain creates a wonderful effect and the voice of the goddess from under the sea is gorgeous. Despite what must be intense work from all performers, the show seems effortless.

With a gently told message on how to treat the world, coming from a time long ago but very relevant today, this show is lovely.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council