Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

09/03/2019 - 16/03/2019

Capital E National Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

Bickering snails, neurotic snakes and a cranky man chasing a bird:  welcome to a swamp like no other! Using shadow puppets made from bits of rubbish, Bunk Puppets creates a gurgling adventure about life in a swamp with a spell-binding 3D shadow puppet finale.

Watch out for the jellyfish! An award-winning show that has warmed critics and delighted audiences around the world: Dubai, Edinburgh, Sydney, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, New York City, London, Berlin.

Hannah Playhouse
09 March 2016
10am & 1pm
16 March 2019
$16.50 to $19.50
AGES: 7+



Theatre , Children’s ,

50 mins (Public shows Saturdays only)

Shriekingly delightful

Review by John Smythe 10th Mar 2019

When one of my young companions asks what all that stuff is that’s hanging on a line and in open boxes at the back of the stage, the other says, “Just a lot of dumb stuff.” And he’s right. The stuff says nothing to us – until actor James Pratt brings it to life through the magic of shadow puppetry in Swamp Juice, directed by Bunk Puppets’ artistic director, Jeff Achtem.

Be-goggled James – a Melbourne-based Kiwi who graduated from the John Bolton Theatre School way back last century then co-founded The 4 Noels who were regular favourites at our Comedy Festivals until 2006 – connects with his audience by displaying various bits of the stuff. “Bit scary?” he asks, and that’s about as syllabic as he gets. “No!” the kids shout at increasing volume. “Not scary!!!” And clearly they’ll be happy if something is.

Strange shapes attached to James’s arm and hands become – when held up to strategically-placed spotlights that throw shadows onto a screen – birds, snails and a rather malevolent man who tries to capture ‘Birdie’ as it feeds its young in a nest (created from James’s hair).  

With predator and prey roles clearly established, the chase is on, above and below a swampy pond with a scary monster joining the fray. It all gets very surreal and nightmarish, to the awed delight of the young audience – and, it has to be said, their adult companions.

The action is so entrancing I have to force myself to study the means by which the illusions are being created – in plain view, for those so inclined to tune in at that level. That one performer with just two hands, his head and a telephonist mic can conjure all this is astonishing.

Puzzlement turns into excitement when the screen is repositioned, objects are tossed to the audience and we get the chance to add to the shadow-play as the chase takes to the air – thanks to James simply shining a torch from behind us as he moves about the auditorium, maintaining his live soundtrack all the while.

So far what we have witnessed and been part of can be replicated, at some level, at home. It’s simple technology with boundless potential for creativity in the making of shapes and the stories to go with them.

But now 3D glasses are handed out and – when we are wearing them – the creatures in flight are leaping out of the screen straight at us! Scary? You bet – and shriekingly delightful.

How is that done, the separating of the image so it becomes three-dimensional? Something to do with polarising, I think … The kids who want to find out have something to research when they get home, or back to school. Meanwhile Swamp Juice is terrific entertainment for the seven plus age group


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