Monday, June 11, 2012

Sleeping Horses Lie

By Gai Anderson
Terrapin Puppet Theatre
Theatre Royal Hobart

Sleeping Horses Lie is Terrapin Puppet Theatres’ new school show, directed by Frank Newman and written by Maxine Mellor. An action-packed delight, this quirkily told tale, tells of the young girl Sally Saber, whose greatest desire is to be strong and brave like a tiger. But there is nothing to fear in Sally's house until late one night when her fantasy world begins to come to life.

Told in classic story-book fashion, but with generous lashings of pantomime, clown, slapstick, character puppetry and digital animation, the performers Bryony Geeves and Kai Raisbeck, as brother and sister Wilbur and Wilma, tell this complex but rollicking  tale with great vigor. Punctuated by moments of heightened physical theatre and delightful song the show is visually complex, with the feel of an old world nursery rhyme come-alive.

The charmingly simple set and stylish vaudevillian costume in sepia tones are a treat, with the inside of a coat becoming a screen for animation, and the matching tiger striped “cabinet of curiosities” revealing musical instruments, animated objects and a puppet stage.

The complex narrative is poetic and beautiful, but also too descriptive at times , stalling the momentum of the action, and I would have preferred to be shown rather than told.
At other times there are so many elements being juggled on stage that the drive of Sally’s drama is quite hard to follow and it’s difficult to differentiate between narrator and character.

But once the real story gets underway and Sally’s fantasy world comes to life in the flesh, then the real magic begins. In an “Alice in wonderland” sort of riddle, Sally searches for answers from the hilarious grumpy postmaster in miniature, a wonderful inside-out teddy bear with a lisp and the playfully confusing black and white “horses that lie”.

Returning to the world of Wilma and Wilbur and their argument of possible endings cleverly draws the audience back in for a humorous and necessary tie up of this sometimes confused story.

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