Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

18/02/2014 - 22/02/2014

NZ Fringe Festival 2014

Production Details

The Dreamer: A Spectacle of Your Deepest Dreams and Fears  

On February the 18- 22 at Whitirea Theatre, 7pm nightly tickets are; students, concessions and Fringe Addicts are $12 and adults $18. Tickets can be purchased through Whiteria Ticketing desk and Fringe’s page on Eventfinda.

This play addresses the subjectivity of reality. A Dreamer is thrown through different states of reality, different times, and different places. As she journeys, she meets a number of characters – a teddy bear, some dragons, her mother, a burglar. Though not chronological, her journey is ultimately one to discover whether she can retain the joy and innocence of her childhood while fighting her mental illness.

Director Emma Robinson of the Loose Screw Collective brings us her debut Fringe piece which aims to push our boundaries and dispel our assumptions of mental illness. Emma finds “Artists have an important place in changing the ingrained beliefs of society” her fantastical piece light-heartedly addresses all of our unspoken assumptions to show that reality is not always as it seems.

There are many challenging and compelling elements to this production. I contains all original compositions by Armand Gerbut Gaylor. The magic realism is created through shadow puppetry, giant puppetry and UV lights. Using innovative technologies and circus inspired physical stunts the magic world of the Dreamer is brought to life.

Emma was driven to create this play to challenge ideas about mental illness and recovery. By presenting a main character with a mental illness we are showing that it is a common and often hidden thing. In her words “your best friend, parent or child might be afflicted and you would never know”. So it is about being aware, the experience of being a sufferer is made relatable and understandable by portraying this dream world inside a characters head. This is to challenge the belief that mentally ill people are “crazy” or “broken” or wrong; Emma wants her audience to know “We are just like you”.

The Dreamer shows how the process of recovery is an ongoing challenge; there is no magic pill or sudden element that fixes someone. Through this journey however the audience laughs, because in this play they see the working of the human brain, they see their own quirks up on stage. The writing is down to earth and relatable, Emma believes that “We are educating through comedy and through spectacle”.

Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivan St, Te Aro, Wellington
18-22 February, 7.30pm
70 mins
Full: $18.00 | Concession: $12.00 | Fringe Addict: $12.00 | Artist Card: $12.00
Buy Tickets – 04 238 6225 (Additional fees may apply)

Book or door sales (cash only).

Production Manager – Nina Scott 
Costume and Set Design – Jasmine Shadbolt
Lighting Design – Abigail Helsby
Composer – Amand Gerbault-Gaylor
Graphics Department/Actress – Emma Young 
Marketing Manager – Amanda Eggers

Theatre ,

Incredible physical theatre and puppetry but the narrative is largely unclear

Review by Deborah Eve Rea 21st Feb 2014

The Dreamer (written and directed by Emma Robinson) is a highly creative, semi-surrealist work which shifts back and forth through space and time, following its title character and her journey with mental illness. 

The Dreamer focuses mostly on three stages of the protagonist’s life. As a teenager with her mother, recovering in a hospital, and as a young adult living with her partner. 

The Dreamer’s sole confidant is her teddy bear, Samson (playfully puppeteered by Hugo Randall), who is constant through shifts in time. Samson helps The Dreamer with her curiosities, including her sexuality, illness and goals for the future. Samson is a very direct teddy bear and at times his questions leave The Dreamer blushing and the audience jaw-dropped.  

Throughout the show we enter into The Dreamer’s fears, anxieties and dissociations though the use of a brilliant physical chorus.  

The black-clad chorus physically manipulate and launch The Dreamer into the air. At other times they use puppetry, physical score and motif to transform and transcend the space. Of particular note is their formation of a large beating heart which alone is worth the ticket.  

Jasmine Shadbolt’s design again shines this New Zealand Fringe season. Her set includes a mobile bed which transforms to float over the sea, and a stunning animal mobile with hanging stars. I assume that she is also responsible for the beautiful puppets, including a breath-taking tiger that slinks through the space like a Chinese dragon, and man-sized dragon shadow puppets.  The set and puppetry are brought to life by keen and subtle shifts of lighting and sound by Abigail Helsby and Amand Gerbault-Gaylor. 

In the title role, Mouce Young is stunning. Her performance is understated and honest and the audience are drawn into her journey, even if she does come across as the most stable character in the play at times.

As The Dreamer’s mother, Alida Steemson provides a stellar performance. Steemson partners the need to love and nurture with the frustration, leading to guilt, which comes from not being able to solve or understand.

In the other roles, Jane Paul (Riley), Alice Lean (Nurse), and Jessica Coppell and Thomas Pepperell (ensemble, respectively) all perform competently. As a chorus the company presents with a strong awareness of space, shape and the ensemble. 

Although the play largely leans itself towards surrealism, the dialogue is incredibly literal and overt. The characters tell us how they feel which causes the actors’ performances to become double percussive.  

While the play’s physical theatre and puppetry are incredible, the actual narrative is largely unclear. I’m left guessing which form of mental illness we are addressing here; I assume paranoid schizophrenia. This, coupled with the unclear timeline, leaves the audience trying to catch up rather than being present with the scenes.

Likewise, the ending is inclusive. Without wanting to give it away, the final moment seems to arrive with very little setup and subsequently its symbolism is confusing as to exactly what decision The Dreamer has made.   

The Dreamer is well-worth a view. Physical and surrealist theatre of this calibre of creativity is currently rare in Wellington. Emma Robinson’s theatrical direction must be seen to be believed.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council