THEATRICALLY EXQUISITE, BUT POINTLESS AND MEANINGLESS
INTO THE UNCANNY VALLEY
by Jean Betts with Charlie Bleakley, based on an idea by Charlie Bleakley and Nick Wyatt, with thanks for refinements to the original cast
Director: Charlie Bleakley
Produced by Lumina Productions
as part of STAB 2012 (with thanks to Creative NZ)
at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
From 3 Nov 2012 to 17 Nov 2012
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 8 Nov 2012
originally published in The Dominion Post
If ever there was a play that covers the whole gamut of theatrical experiences then Into the Uncanny Valley, the second of the STAB productions at BATS, is certainly it, although not all that successfully.
Starting with a blinding light in the first few moments of the play's opening with a haunting sound track, the technical wizardry just keeps coming to the very end, unfortunately much to the detriment of the narrative.
Quantum physics is the theme, as seen through the eyes of Sophie (Jennifer Martin) a Victorian child. Her tutor (Paul Waggott) and parents (Richard Faulkner and Anya Tate-Manning) and parent's friend (Bryony Skillington) all try to explain to her how light works and the physics behind particle matter but to no avail. So with her pet mice and black cat (Paul Waggott) she travels through time to the 21st century to try and find the answers.
A sort of Alice in Wonderland meets Lord of the Rings meets Einstein. Not surprising really, given that the lead designer for this production is one of Peter Jackson's art directors Joe Bleakley. His son Charlie Bleakley is the director and with Jean Betts, the writer, and Australian composer Adam Page, this formidable team along with the strong cast, including dancers, have brought to the stage one of the technological highlights of the year.
However, what the play is actually about and what it is trying to achieve gets somewhat lost in all this technology so that while it is great to watch, in the end it all becomes rather pointless and meaningless.
But even if many of the moments seemed disconnected from the whole, making the overall production disjointed, leaping from one scene to another, often with long black outs, there were numerous scenes that are theatrically exquisite.
These included tiny lights moving over the heads of the audience, like little Tinkerbells, the screen projections of Sophie looking through the widows of her dolls house as the mice ran through it, the large images of the talking cat, and the many screen images of quantum physics, including a large 3D type image of earth as seen from outer space.
All this and more added much to the surrealistic nature of the production which is worth going to see even if overall the play makes no sense.
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Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);