A trio of charming puppet shows
Out of the Suitcase Puppet Festival
Island Bay Baptist Church Hall & Auditorium
Te Whare Karetao O Hinenuitepo
Debra Bustin & Friends
The Blue Shoe Show
The Fall of Alengka
Ki Joko Susilo
Gamelan Padhang Moncar
This is not the traditional myth of Hine-nui-te-po, but a topical version by Bustin, with a strong environmental message.
The story, written on a screen lit by torchlight, is difficult to read, and needs to be addressed.
Piwakawaka tells Hinenuitepo (in Maori mythology the goddess of darkness and the underworld), how the earth, its rivers, oceans and lakes are being despoiled by humankind. Elements of Maori mythology are utilised to illustrate the journey that must be undertaken by an innocent child, back through time, to the heart of Hinenuitepo, in order to save the world from destruction and death.
Topically, a fierce, angry puppet carrying a large TPPA sign is swiftly dispatched by a big hand, to cheers from the audience.
Music is provided by the lovely voices and acoustic guitars of Shar Gardiner and Manahi Te Hiakai Gardiner – a big asset to the production.
Although the manipulation is often shaky and amateurish, the beautiful figures and scenes are worthy of an exhibition, the message timely, and aroha was everywhere.
It is something to celebrate and to mourn, that The Blue Shoe Show is just as relevant today as it was when first performed almost 30 years ago.
Beauchamp's show also carries an environmental message, plus gentle criticism of society's craving for speed at all costs, which sadly still resonates.
Young Josie Bucket while playing with her friend Jim throws one of her new blue shoes high up into space. Ever-resourceful, she makes a ladder out of arrows from her bow, and climbs up it to retrieve her shoe.
There she meets a star who begs her to stay in the sky. "Look below," she says. "The earth is burning."
Josie begs her mother, Jim and the people below to join her in blue, cool space. They do and once there, have 'a big talk' about what went wrong on earth.
A tree, whose heart was burning, said, "People got too greedy. They wanted all the earth for themselves."
Pharlap interjected, "We were on fire to win! We took ourselves too seriously, and that's no joke."
Beauchamp narrates, sings and plays the ukulele, charming the audience with her wry humour and never taking herself too seriously.
The Fall of Alengka is a story from the great Indian epic, The Ramayana. Its creator, Joko Susilo, is an eighth-generation Indonesian shadow puppeteer, now resident in Dunedin.
An integral part of the performance is the musical accompaniment by the mesmerising Gamelan Padhang Moncar. Particular mention must go to the beautiful singing of Briar Prastiti and the stirring drumming of Rupert Snook. The Gamelan adds brilliant drama and colour to the production.
The beautifully made, intricate puppets demonstrate high energy and refinement, an extraordinarily wide range of emotions and movement. Great skill and dexterity, immense discipline and total concentration is required of the puppeteer. Susilonot only manipulates the puppets, but also narrates the action, sings and does some sound effects as well. His mastery is complete.
The story is one of good triumphing over evil. It tells how Prince Rama battled the terrible Rawhina who had abducted his wife Princess Sinta, and of their many ordeals before they were eventually reunited.
The middle traditional comic section features clowns who trade slapstick business and references to John Key and the All Blacks.
The spellbound audience gave Susilo and the Gamelan a joyous standing ovation.