Laurel Devenie is tackling her biggest acting challenge yet - working with 1000 toy pandas.
The Kiwi actress, pictured, had a baptism of fire when her first job after drama school was as a body double for Hollywood veteran Sigourney Weaver in the 2009 hit movie Avatar.
Now she has been thrown into one of New Zealand's most bizarre theatre sets for Emily Perkins' contemporary adaptation of the classic play A Doll's House, in which the cast walk on top of the bears in a "panda pit" throughout the 90-minute show.
"At the start the bears are laid out in regimented rows like creepy little soldiers," Devenie said. "The concept is that once they start getting trampled on and thrown around by the actors, what was once perfect order turns into chaos, just like the character's lives in the show."
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A Doll's House - a reimagining of Henrik Ibsen's controversial 19th-century work- is a first venture into playwriting by award-winning author Perkins.
It started a three-week run at Auckland's Maidment Theatre last night. The play debuted in Copenhagen in 1879 and made European society shudder with its audacious critique of gender roles. The new version is set in contemporary Auckland. Devenie plays Nora, whose perfect marriage and family life disintegrates amid a suffocating trap of secrets and lies.
"The set means it is a bit like working in a big jacuzzi full of pandas," said Devenie.
"The audience will be in for a big surprise when the curtain goes up."