Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

18/03/2017 - 25/03/2017

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

Ingenious shadow puppetry to delight Wellington audiences  

Internationally acclaimed shadow puppet theatre Bunk Puppets are welcoming Wellington audiences to their surreal world with Sticks Stones Broken Bones as part of Capital E’s National Arts Festival.

Sticks Stones Broken Bones is a celebration of the magic of play and creativity, where performer Tom Sneddon creates shadow puppets live on stage, crafting canny characters that have delighted audiences from Edinburgh to Tokyo via Dubai and Madrid. 

Sneddon uses household items, old toys, bits of fluff and scraps of card to build a buffet of engaging characters and scenes live on stage, before launching them into outrageous and interesting situations. The puppets come together live with great suspense and may appear odd at first, but all is revealed in their shadows once the scenes are illuminated. 

Sticks Stones Broken Bones ignites imagination and inspires audience members to squeeze wonder out of everyday objects. Flying chickens, brain transplants and sneaky ninjas will all make guest appearances in Sneddon’s wonderful shadow world, as he convinces audiences that “art can be fun, ingenious and playful whilst still being accessible for all ages” (British Theatre Review). 

Bunk Puppets is based in Melbourne, and is known for making shadow puppetry cool again. The company’s shows are renowned for being outlandish and vibrant, and have received rave reviews from numerous international tours. 

Festival producer Melanie Hamilton says “the imagination and ingenuity shown live on stage during Sticks Stones Broken Bones is incredibly impressive. Audiences will gasp and laugh as Tim Sneddon’s over-the-top characters come to life in this shadow puppet extravaganza.” 

Sticks Stones Broken Bones
Public performances at
Hannah Playhouse
Saturday 18 March 2017 at 11.30am
Saturday 25 March 2017 at 10am.

To find out more and book tickets, visit   

Theatre , Puppetry , Family , Children’s ,

50 mins (public: Sats only)


Review by John Smythe 18th Mar 2017

The bright screen, the washing line with odd-looking garments hanging on it, the boxes, and the assorted bits and pieces that litter the Hannah Playhouse stage pique the interest of our young companions but none of us guess what’s about to happen. (A barely-noticed single spotlight is the key.)

The bumbling mutterer who makes his way by torchlight through the packed auditorium seems much too self-involved to present a solo show to the highly expectant audience. Besides, he (Tim Sneddon) is talking gibberish, apart from the very occasional actual word. Yet he turns out to be brilliant ant communicating what he is up to, and what he wants us to do.

Much apparently random fun ensues from his taping a pencil to one of his shoes (a ‘shoe phone’ gag for the oldies) and getting people in the audience to hold strips of packing tape high. Blowing up a beanie-wearing balloon and sticking the retrieved strips of tape to it just seems like more ridiculousness until he starts snipping at what he’s constructed with scissors. Can there be method in this madness? Yes.

The way it suddenly resolves into a human-like head, crisply silhouetted on the screen, earns spontaneous applause. Despite our having seen how he did it, or rather because we have seen it, the effect is truly magical. We watch the ‘man’ watching TV and marvel at how a shadow-head with a thumb providing the mouth and chin can express such a range of emotion – abetted by a clever sound track.  

Tim’s love and abuse of a stuffed toy and a professor-type’s bizarre cranial exploration of another person – the woman he loves? – ramps up the absurdism. It’s so absorbing to watch, we have to remind ourselves to look back at Tim to see how ingeniously he is creating these shadow-play scenarios.  

While many children in the audience may not be familiar with Chess as such, so take a while get what’s happening as a haggard couple hover over a game, the little love story that evolves is curiously heart-warming.

When Tim gets a strappingly fit-looking man up from the audience, to the shock and delight of his young son, some remarkably physical action ensues culminating in the guest receiving a martial arts lesson from a decrepit-looking yet formidable Ninja master. It is reassuring to keep checking that the two performers are metres apart as the shadows box and kick-box each other mercilessly.

The evocation of a steeplechase ingeniously employs a foot-pedalled conveyor belt. Again comparing what the actor is doing with the images up on the screen adds to the experience for the older and more analytical among us.

Having told us, “No matter how big you are you’re never too old to play,” Tim offers an encore involving glowing, reflected images that glide all over the auditorium and us. 

While I’m not quite sure why it’s called Sticks Stones, Broken Bones, it is certainly astonishing: a brilliant family theatre show that is bound to inspire home-grown shadow play in homes and schools throughout the land.
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Note:  Canadian-born originator Jeff Achtem, now resident in Australia, brought this show to Auckland two years ago for the NZ International Comedy Festival in Auckland. 


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