Wednesday, March 20, 2013


By Gai Anderson

Terrapin Puppet Theatre and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
Seen as part of Ten Days on the Island Festival, 2013.
The Recital Hall, Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, Hobart .

Theatre at its best is transportative – it takes you to places outside your self – where you suspend your disbelief and begin to take part in the alchemy that is happening before you on stage.
Some time its the trickery and spectacle that does this, sometimes it’s the quirky humor, the depth of story, the uplifting beauty of the music, the emotional life of the characters, the simplicity and wisdom of the message. But sometimes you are privileged enough to witness a show that does all those things and more.

Shadow Dreams is a technical and artistic triumph by any standards - a superbly crafted, simple, heart-felt story, beautifully told, of two boys who begin to dream each other’s dreams. It is a colaboration between Terrapin Puppet Theatre and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, performing the very beautiful uplifting music of Graeme Koehn live.

The show is staged simultaneously in two theatres at the two ends of the state using broadband to stream the live orchestra and vision.

So on the stage in Hobart I could see a screen divided in half, before which the story of Peter, a suburban white boy living with his Mum and gran is enacted live.
On the other half of the screen is the Aboriginal boy Dale with his father and sister in their house on a farm near Launceston. This was a projection streaming live from the Launceston stage, where they were performing.

But that’s not all, the trickery went much further than this as layers of animation, detailed landscape captured in stunning painted backdrops and atmospheric shadow puppetry and other live puppetry elements were layered to continuously transform the visual story with incredible beauty.

There was an awful lot going on on-stage sometimes, which may have been easier to take in in a larger theatre. But that didn’t stop me from being totally engaged from start to finish with the beauty and significance of the story.

The boys themselves were a delight, played by actors Kai Resbeck and first time Aboriginal performer Nathan Maynard. As we watched their days at school and at home we met two funny characters with the quirky details of their lives, and where they live, of Bridgewater Jerry, Seven Mile Beach and Dove lake.

But this story is not just about the boys – it’s a story about the wisdom of the generations who have been here before and the shared dreaming for a communal future. For what they dream together is not just any story, but the Palawa story of the creation of Tasmania and its sacred landscapes.

Eventually it led them to each other when they met with the families at Dove Lake, and amongst the elders and the wisdom of culture, they ran and laughed together, dreaming of that communal future.

This is a very important story; a moment of reconciliation, albeit on stage. It is certainly the first time I have seen the reenactment of the Palawa story in such a public forum and it brought a tear to my eyes. Let’s hope every Tasmanian gets to see this show in all its heart felt beauty.

Thanks to the generosity of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community, to the ever inspiring talents of Frank Newman and Finegan Kruckemeyer and to the huge caste and crew of Terrapin who worked together to make this incredible show happen.

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