Theatre review: Sea, Maidment Theatre

By Paul Simei-Barton

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Sea blends puppetry, dance and physical theatre to breathtaking effect.
Sea blends puppetry, dance and physical theatre to breathtaking effect.

The underwater world proves to be the ideal environment for Red Leap's unique blend of puppetry, dance and physical theatre in Sea.

The production opens with vast expanses of billowing silk conjuring up an apocalyptic deluge, and as the drama plunges beneath the luminous surface of a turquoise sea the audience is submerged in a breathtakingly beautiful vision of aquatic life.

Julie Nolan and Kate Parker have created an exquisitely crafted menagerie of sea creatures that are brought to life in finely choreographed sequences in which the motion of puppets is seamlessly blended with the dance of the puppeteers.

The puppets are often broken into separate pieces that are animated by synchronised teams of operators, and as the fragmented sections swirl around the stage the audience must draw on their own imagination to complete the illusion.

The technique is particularly effective in expressing the majestic proportions of a blue whale, and the company displays a rich vocabulary of movement that convincingly evokes the rhythmic undulation of jellyfish, the sinuous poise of drifting stingrays and the restless quivering of darting shoals of small fish.

The visual images are nicely complemented by Claire Cowan's musical score, which has dolphins cavorting to a banjo while a haunting cello signifies danger.

The storyline has a distinctive Pacific Island flavour and draws on mythology archetypes to fashion an ecological fable in which male greed and violence is set against a watery kind of pantheism presided over by a tribe of benevolent sea turtles.

At times this dualism seems simplistic, though the cast establishes a web of human relationship that brings compelling emotion to the story's moral lessons.

The young, multicultural cast display a highly disciplined athleticism, and their beautifully orchestrated ensemble work attests to the lengthy gestation period that has given birth to a superb piece of collectively devised drama.

Theatre review

What: Sea
Where and when: Maidment Theatre until tonight.

- NZ Herald

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