Red Leap's passionate engagement with Janet Frame's novel Owls Do Cry honours the diverse experience of readers as they encounter a haunting vision of small-town New Zealand, seen through the eyes of outcasts and misfits.
Instead of an adaptation, the show throws up a kaleidoscope of deeply evocative images which highlight the imaginative processes that take place in the minds of readers.
Those familiar with the novel will easily identify the characters and scenes which are re-imagined with stunning visual panache. For those who have not read the book or are dredging up hazy memories of English literature lessons, there is the thrill of discovering a strangely familiar world and a gripping poetic voice.
Under the artistic direction of Julie Nolan, Red Leap Theatre is committed to an intensely collaborative process which makes it difficult to assign credit to the individual practitioners who devised the work.
Suffice the say the show hinges on the wildly energetic efforts of six highly talented performers. Ross McCormack's electrifying presence brilliantly expresses the anguish of a father who is tragically incapable of forging an emotional connection with his family.
Hannah Lynch's dancing is sensuously energetic and she brings a refreshingly down-to-earth quality to her jazz infused rendition of the book's opening poem.
Arlo Gibson establishes an amusing connection with the audience as an earnest schoolmaster rising to apoplectic fury about the book's unseemly passions and incorrect punctuation.
Margaret Mary Hollins movingly conveys the frustration of a Mother tormented by her inability to give enough to her children and the design team conjures up a stunning display of lazar light and video projection to re-create the horror of electric shock therapy.
Eden Mulholland's musical score precisely charts the ever-shifting emotions of the work and director Malia Johnston skilfully weaves the disparate elements into a cohesive whole.
Red Leap has crafted a fitting tribute to the astonishing power of Janet Frame's writing.
What: Owls Do Cry
Where & When: Q Theatre, Rangatira to Saturday, November 2.
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton