Sunday, 9 July 2017

Nella’s Wings, July 4, 2017 ***1/2

Performed and devised by Sue Wallace
By Sydney Puppet Theatre, Melbourne Festival of Puppetry 2017 
At La Mama, Festival runs until July 9, Nella’s Wings runs until July 6, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2

 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri July 57, 2017. KH

Puppets can do things that humans can’t and Nella’s Wings is a story about a puppet-child who dreams of flying.

Nella never speaks but she indulges her passion for flight by drawing creatures that fly and, to the delight of the four to eight year olds, joyfully conjures the locations where they live.

In this charming, gentle performance directed by Annie Forbes, puppeteer, Sue Wallace, performs with Nella, a sweet, enigmatic and colourful hand-held puppet, animating Nella’s chalk drawings and turning her fantasies into flying creatures and vivid landscapes.

The set design (Lucy Nias) is spare and simple, featuring an old, wooden school desk in which Nella sleeps and dreams, a white screen on which shadow puppets magically appear, and a series of painted, embroidered and padded cloths to provide scenery.

The children participate willingly and vocally, responding to Nella’s sketches by calling out, ‘It’s a penguin!’ or ‘It’s a balloon!’ or ‘Use the feathers!’ and commiserating with ‘Poor Nella’ when her dreams of flying seem doomed.

Wallace hums, sings and whispers to Nella and enlivens her imaginings, sending the audience first to an owl’s nest where a mother owl flaps and frets while feeding her chirping, hungry owlets.

Wallace then transports us to the desert and Uluru where the children giggle when a goofy camel dumps a huge dropping that then causes a mid-air fight between brightly hued, flying bugs.

On the shadow screen, a penguin (‘They can’t fly’, a child reminds us) swims with the fish, dodging greedy sharks, then, in an enchanting vignette, a burbling baby plays with a gossamer-light butterfly.

This simple tale of dreams and flight engages and entrances the littlies and, if you miss this one, it is not the only puppetry show on at La Mama this week.

In the courtyard outside the theatre, a Puppet Picnic takes place where the children can interact with a tiny monkey, multiple dinosaurs, a slow tortoise and its foxy friend.

The Melbourne Festival of Puppetry is host to about 20 performances and workshops by Australian and overseas artists, including Arkipelago 2: A Story of Intima-Sea by Anino Shadowplay Collective from The Phillippines, a family show about the people’s relationship with the sea.

See programme for Melbourne Festival of Puppetry here:

By Kate Herbert

Performed & devised by Sue Wallace
Director Annie Forbes
Designer Lucy Nias
Music by Steve Coupe

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