Comedy Metamorphosis [by Guest Reviewer Tim George]
Caterpillars is a story with two tales. On one level, it is meant to be an imaginative, artistic, and yes, somewhat pretentious art piece evoking the life cycle of a butterfly through a combination of puppetry and music. On another level it is the story of how two hapless puppeteers can completely screw it up.
Comedy spoofs work best when they are taken dead seriously. And the two performers in Caterpillars take their work very seriously indeed. Even as the show collapses around them, they perform each set piece with a deer-in-the-headlights intensity that is somehow rather poignant.
Essential props are destroyed (and then replaced with hilariously underwhelming substitutes), a synchronised dance number is thrown off by impromptu solos, and, in a crucial moment that recalls the ‘ emerging from the egg’ sequence from This is Spinal Tap, a performer finds himself trapped in a chrysalis.
The physical production is excellent. The costumes are fantastic, and are highly effective, in look and movement, at evoking the movement of the titular insects. The use of props is economical and as visually striking in their own way as the costumes. Part of the humour comes from the complete disconnect between the evident effort put into the production and the all too evident inability of the performers to make it work as intended.
A brilliant sideways look at the effort that goes into theatrical production and an exquisite showcase in physical comedy, “Caterpillars” is a rare show that lives up to that tired phrase, “fun for the whole family”.
Caterpillars is presented by Show Pony and plays as part of Auckland Fringe at Q Loft until 21st Feb. Details see Q.