Theatre takes shadowy track

Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013
The Road That Wasn't There
The Road That Wasn't There

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Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it drew rave reviews, Trick of the Light Theatre is bringing its dark New Zealand fairytale, The Road That Wasn't There, back to home soil.

Penned by award-winning Wellington playwright, Ralph McCubbin Howell, the show - part-play, part-puppet theatre - will take to the boards at Sam Mahon's Old Mill in Waikari, on Saturday, March 9.

Mr McCubbin Howell grew up in Waikari and the The Road That Wasn't There captures many of the curiosities of the local landscape. It is also rooted in New Zealand folklore, from lost moa roaming the foothills to faeries who drink moonshine out the back of Pyne Gould Guinness, he says.

''It's a story from the twitchy edges of children's literature - a dark world reminiscent of Neil Gaiman, Pan's Labyrinth and the works of the late (great) Margaret Mahy.''

It is set in the Central Otago township of St Bathans (population seven), but was inspired by the thousands of kilometres of paper roads that crisscross North Canterbury and the settlements that would have serviced the unrealised pass across the alps.

''There was a township called Willoughby surveyed at Masons Flat in the 1880s. As a kid, I remember imagining 'what if there was another world where these plans had gone ahead','' Mr McCubbin Howell said.

Willoughby now pops up as a character in the play, in which a young woman strays from the beaten track and finds herself in a paper town that should only exist on surveyors' maps. It seems a land of possibility, but she soon discovers that actions taken in the fictional world can have frighteningly real consequences.

The Road That Wasn't There combines three actors and 60-odd puppets, blending shadow-play, rod puppets, live music and acting.

''We're particularly excited about performing at the Old Mill (as part of our national tour). The setting fits the show perfectly and should make for something special,'' Mr McCubbin Howell said.

The Road That Wasn't There is aimed at an audience ranging from children seven years and older through to adults. You can turn up at 5pm on March 9 for a game of soccer, or at 6pm for a bring-a-plate dinner. Tickets are available through dashtickets at

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- The Press


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