REVIEW: Knock Knock (The Dust Palace)

Rochelle Mangan gives an elegantly agile performance. Photo Oliver Rosser

Whose there? [by Sharu Delilkan]

Rochelle Mangan gives an elegantly agile performance. Photo   Oliver Rosser
Rochelle Mangan gives an elegantly agile performance.
Photo Oliver Rosser

The foyer of The Herald Theatre was buzzing with excitement as people read the decree on the scrolls adorning the walls. The Dust Palace had thrown down the gauntlet to us as audience members, and everyone headed towards their seats wondering what they were in for – especially since the dreaded “audience participation” card had been mentioned. [Slight spoiler: FYI in retrospect this ends up not being a biggie in the scheme of things, so fear not].

Although I appreciate the eight multi-coloured doors on stage were an ode to the antique advent calendar I couldn’t help thinking that they reminded me of the mystery version of Celebrity Squares. All in all The Dust Palace had cleverly set the tone from the get-go, which gave them the upper hand once ‘the proceedings’ commenced.

I couldn’t help wondering how Ash Jones aka the sentry guard on stage would fit in with the show we were about to see. Knowing Jones’ acting work including Auckland Theatre Company’s Importance of Being Earnest made me a bit puzzled – was Ash about to do some cartwheels or aerial work for us? But no that couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact he couldn’t have had his feet planted more solidly into the ground – something I discovered after the show i.e. his boots had been nailed to the floor forcing him to stand up right throughout and use clever facial movement instead to his benefit.

But enough about Jones’ brilliance.

The ease with which Knock Knock combines new cabaret, aerial circus and comedy into a fantastical chocolate-box adventure, inviting audiences to discover the stories and bring to life the performances behind each door, is definitely to be applauded.

Once again The Dust Palace has not only shown talent and skill but also given us the surprise element that skeptical audience members like me usually refuse to buy into. But buy into it we did, hook line and sinker.

I am a big fan of vignettes so I really enjoyed the series of treats that we got to sample with the different worlds revealed as each door was opened. What was most impressive was the amazingly varied stories being told and the level of talent being displayed as a result. On the surface all the stories contained some, if not all the elements of a great cabaret number including acrobatics, music, comedy, pathos and drama. However it was the whole technicality of the production that intrigued me the most. Having the doors in front on stage rather than a naked stage that is riddled with aerial rigging was a welcome change that helped suspend our disbelief even more.

The only niggle would be that the finale went on a tad too long – something that could easily be fixed. Otherwise the pace of the show was amazingly slick and spot, something that can be quite rare this early in the season.

The choice of music (not credited), and suitably dramatic lighting thanks to the talented Michael Craven, gave the show the polish and shine that we have come to love about The Dust Palace‘s fabulously original shows.

The themes that each storyline touched upon had bits that caused some sexual tension and people to shift uncomfortably in their seats – which is again the hallmark of a good cabaret-style production.

Director/producer/aerial performer/actress extraordinaire Eve Gordon is a local gem that we should treasure. Dare I sound like a groupie when I say “She just gets better every time I see her in action – you go girl!”

So if you’re looking for a night out or the perfect Christmas gift for a loved one make your way to The Herald Theatre before it’s too late!

Knock Knock is presented by The Dust Palace in association with The Edge and plays at The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre until 21 December. More information at The Edge.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Raewyn Whyte

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