Paper Sky by Red Leap Theatre
Directed by Julie Nolan and Kate Parker
Downstage Theatre, until November 17
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman
Having had a triumphant season in Wellington two years ago with its production of The Arrival, Red Leap Theatre is now back in town with its latest production, Paper Sky, playing at Downstage.
Although a much more intimate and less substantial work than The Arrival, this production still shows all the creative genius and flair of Red Leap founders and artistic directors Julie Nolan and Kate Parker seen in their previous productions.
They have described their work as "image-based storytelling" in which they use movement, imagery and puppetry with minimal dialogue, and Paper Sky is no exception in this regard.
Aided by a very creative set designed by John Verryt that, as it evolves, almost becomes a production in itself, with imaginative lighting and sound by Jeremy Fern and Andrew McMillan, the story of recluse writer Henry (Emmett Skilton) magically unfolds.
He has locked himself indoors to write his stories after the loss of his wife. As he writes, the images of his thoughts and feelings materialise through wonderfully constructed paper cut- outs. These are activated by three actors, Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce and Justin Haiu, who also become his alter egos as he becomes more depressed at not achieving a successful writing outcome.
Contained in his writing is Lumina, his heroine (a puppet), the creation of which is motivated by Henry's very real feelings for his departed wife. As Henry writes, Lumina appears to be exorcising her own demons in parallel to Henry.
Then to compound matters his world is shattered when a real woman, Louise (Julia Croft), moves in next door, causing his two worlds of fiction and reality to collide.
Although the ending of the production becomes a little drawn out and loses focus, the enchantment is still maintained throughout and the originality and sheer inventiveness of the overall concept is truly inspiring.
Much of this is through Skilton's wonderful realisation of Henry, which he brings to life with all the nerdishness required of this type of character. With barely a handful of words spoken, his facial expressions and body language speak volumes.
The supporting actors are also well disciplined and move about with agility, seamlessly manipulating the puppets from scene to scene to make this a delightful show for all ages.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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