The component parts of Carl Bland's surreal mystery play present a cornucopia of theatrical delights: There is a return to the boards by stage and screen legend Ian Mune; an enchanting display of puppetry and special effects; exquisite live music on an array of traditional Thai instruments; the haunting presence of a masked cat and a time-bending storyline that boldly skips across the boundary separating the seen and the unseen.

Holding it all together is a riddle that hinges on the identity of a woman who visits a remote Thai studio occupied by a famous New Zealand painter during the 1930s and in the present day by a conceptual artist who is developing a project on the legacy of the earlier occupant.

The complex structure provides ample opportunity for poetic musing on big questions about mortality, memory and artistic imagination but the weighty philosophical discourse is leavened by outbursts of blood-letting, droll humour and some wickedly macabre puns.

A zen kind of ambience is established by John Verryt's rustic set incorporating Carl Bland's expressionist paintings which show the writer/actor is also an accomplished painter.


The meditative mood is richly enhanced by John Gibson's score which draws on the remarkable virtuosity of multi-instrumentalist Pongsaporn Upani.

A masked performance by Min Kim as a malevolent Siamese cat evokes an aristocratic and enigmatic feline presence.

Ian Mune brings enormous charisma to his portrayal of a grouchy old man with a traumatic past. Tim Carlsen is suitably self-absorbed as a neurotic art entrepreneur and Mia Blake anchors the show as a mercurial provocateur.

What: Spirit House
Where: Herald Theatre; February 16 - March 5