Theatre review: Dialogue with a Mannequin, The Basement

By Janet McAllister

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Cyan Corwine in 'Dialogue with a Mannequin'. Photo / Supplied
Cyan Corwine in 'Dialogue with a Mannequin'. Photo / Supplied

A young girl opens a box, and a balloon silhouette floats up behind her; a bookworm turns into a book butterfly; clouds become thought bubbles; and an umbrella (fittingly on a pluvial night!) holds a surprise. Such simple, delightful effects are well suited to Cyan Corwine's small candyfloss two-hander about learning to grow up without growing old.

She could rely on such fancies to show her girly-sweet story without words, and happily, she usually does. However, strewn throughout like heavy lumps of flour in an otherwise fluffy cupcake are superfluous explanatory monologues which sound like readings from a self-help book: "In these moments of solitude, I feel free...I feel the flight of my individuality..."

A rhyming couplets which starts "Take a little dream and give it nutrients and light" drizzles the show's cutesyness with syrup - a reminder that, when it comes to entertainment, Corwine's native United States has more of a sweet-tooth than New Zealand.

But the show is saved not only by its action but also by its pretty props and costumes all handcrafted by Corwine as well as the emotionally real depiction of the girl's attempts to conform in a world she feels she doesn't fit into. And when she escapes into an imaginary world of movement, the audience escapes with her, thanks to some wonderful soundscapes and endearing puppets.

The girl's only company is her shadow (Corwine's sister Lyla), in a black tulle petticoat contrasting with the girl's white. (The girl is a mannequin in as much as she's trying on different identities; at one point she literally wraps herself in an idea - a visual metaphor worth exploring.)

Some will find this confection immensely heart-warming on these darkening autumn nights. If you have a shy, bookish tween to mid-teen daughter, take her it's only an hour long from 7pm and she'll love it.

What: Dialogue with a Mannequin
Where and when: The Basement, Greys Ave, to March 31

- NZ Herald

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