I've just pledged towards 'The Keepers', one of my favourite shows at The Basement Theatre last year. Created by a quartet of talented ladies - Julia Croft, Veronica Brady, Claire Cowan and Theresa Hanaray aka Thread Theatre - it was an especially exciting show for me because it was so different to our normal theatre fare - experimenting with movement, music and non-verbal storytelling. When I reviewed it last year I called it " a breath of fresh sea air" and "an ethereal, enigmatic play of dreams and feelings".
I said something else too: "The Keepers is a delightful mystery, and deserves to find a place in the New Zealand tour circuit."
I still stand by that, and was delighted to see that the team have finally come back together to bring The Keepers to BATS in Wellington. But to do this, they need to raise some funds. Enter: PledgeMe.co.nz
They are appealing to crowdfunding to help raise to get themselves there. They need to pay for a rehearsal space, props, travel expenses, and minimul rehearsal wages.
The team says: "New Zealand does not have a strong network for funding the arts, particularly new and edgy, 'non-mainstream' work, so we are appealing to those of you who love live performance, want to support women in the arts, and are keen to see fresh and exciting theatre being created and shared. "
I'd encourage Theatre Scenes readers to read their PledgeMe pitch and consider pledging some money to help this creatively exciting show get to the capitol: https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/333
- James Wenley
Shining a new light for alternate theatre [by James Wenley]
Thread Theatre promise a breath of fresh sea air in their debut production of ‘The Keepers’.
It is an ethereal, enigmatic play of dreams and feelings, felt and unfelt, using physical theatre and music to tell much of the story, such as it is.
Devisors Julia Croft and Veronica Brady say the work is “about why people stay and why they leave”, and that it is inspired by the diaries and writings of Anais Nin, and Marguerite Duras, of whom I know nothing about. It’s not much to go on, and most of it is left up to one’s own interpretation… which is refreshing really.
Margaret (Veronica Brady) lives on a small lighthouse island by herself, until Nina (Julia Croft) washes up and challenges her solitary existence. Where does each of the characters come from? We don’t know. Margaret seems incredibly repressed, and Veronica does excellent work portraying her tics, worried physicality and mistrust of Nina. Julia moves beautifully as Nina, in touch with her sensual side, though when speaking I thought she was a little overwrought and ‘too big’ for the subtler mood and style of the piece.
Paper and Puppetry.
Sometimes theatre can take you to that other place. All the elements combine to transport you to the place akin to the dreamland, the subconscious, where anything can happen. I’ve had this experience before, in Red Leap Theatre’s previous work The Arrival no less. It was with high hopes that I entered the Glen Eden Playhouse for this year’s Auckland Arts Festival offering Paper Sky – A love story, and white it came tantalisingly close to a sort of transcendence, not all elements were in harmony.
It’s an obvious one, but I’ll go there: The plot of Paper Sky is paper thin. Emmet Skilton (who is seen regularly in his undies in The Almighty Johnsons) plays Henry, an author who has trapped himself in his house and fears the outside world and all its noise. He is writing a story about a world made of paper and a heroine called Lumina, bought to life as a puppet by Julia Croft. Reality and fiction blur as she and the story enter his world. Henry gets caught in the action too, becoming a puppet, and leaves his ordered everyday life to go on an imaginatively expansive and dangerous adventure. Artistic Directors Kate Parker and Julie Nolan use this simple storyline to treat us to a host of amazing theatrical sights and delights.
Paper Sky is a world that is constantly moving, the set always transforming before our eyes. It is a world where giant reindeer walk, and mountains with a rickety bridge can appear out of nowhere. The design work is breathtaking. John Verytt’s folding set gets top marks, and I love the blue toned colour scheme, aided by the ever dependable Elizabeth Whiting’s expressive costumes and Jeremy Fern’s excellent lighting design. Kate Parker receives an unusual credit for ‘Imagery design’, but with the imagery being the strongest element of Paper Sky, it is well deserved. The show’s aesthetic is wonderful really, and much of what is used onstage is made out of paper (emphasising ideas of fragility). The program reveals that the paper is specially harvested and made by ‘paper artist’ Mark Lander, and Veryt’s set is constructed out of engineered recycled card. Marvelous.
The sound design (Andrew McMillan) adds so much to the show too, the score itself sounding particularly magical and fantastic. Before the show we get into a suitable mood with a soundtrack of timeless love croons.
Emmet Skilton’s uptight Henry is mute for the most of the show, and he does excellent work conveying his feelings and fears with much subtlety. He is helped by a trio of comic characters (Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce and Justin Haiu) who follow him around, pour him tea, wipe his mouth, and seem to represent different parts of his psyche (his id?). These three are wonderfully expressive and quirky, and they also do a great job of manipulating other puppets and design elements through the show. Julia Croft is mainly tasked with bringing the Lumina puppet to life, a sort of skinnier paper rag doll. The main point of articulation is a stick at the back of the puppets head which wasn’t always moved with precision; sometimes the head would drop and the puppet would ‘die’ and I’d be pulled out of the world.
My main quibble is story. I don’t feel stories always have to be complex – simple is good – but I felt that it was the imagery that drove the story, rather than the story driving the images. The play is subtitled ‘A love story’ (Julie and Kate wanted to explore the idea of ‘impossible love’.), but I felt this love story was entirely arbitrary. I didn’t get any insight as to why Henry falls in love with Lumina, other than the fact he created her, or what Henry is to Lumina. The created dangers faced in the paper world took precedence. There are themes and ideas that that could do with more teasing out.
The show works hard, but I could never get entirely swept away. There is much to love though and many moments of awe and beauty. Read Leap continues to do excellent original imaginative work, quite unlike anybody else.
Paper Sky – A Love Story plays as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. The Glen Eden Playhouse season has finished, but will play at the Mercury Theatre from the 10th-14th March.
More information at the Auckland Arts Festival website.