BITTERSWEET TRIUMPHS OF THE IMAGINATION
JUST ABOVE THE CLOUDS
By Ben Anderson
presented by The People Who Play With Theatre
at Q, The Vault, Auckland
From 4 Feb 2014 to 8 Feb 2014
Reviewed by Kathryn van Beek, 1 Mar 2013
If you only have time to see one Fringe Festival show this season, Just Above The Clouds by Ben Anderson might be the one. The endearing show is everything fringe theatre should be. Sometimes poignant, sometimes confusing, always whimsical, Just Above The Clouds explores the wasteland of love lost with a talented ensemble cast.
The story follows the tale of Boy (Seamus Ford) who joins forces with Girl (Jessie McCall) to shatter his concrete heart. The heart is imposingly manifest on stage and is chipped away at throughout the show with a pick axe. The niggles in Boy and Girl's relationship are perfectly illustrated in a discussion about the differences between turtles and tortoises. However the real underlying problems between them transcend even mortality.
Boy finds an unlikely ally in the menacing Cloud, played with great gusto by Chye-Ling Huang. Huang has a real talent for physical theatre and her comic timing is impeccable. She even pulls off Cloud's terrible puns (“did I just say that out cloud?”).
The play is billed as a puppet show, but it's more a play featuring puppets. The actors are never hidden and always have their feet, hands and faces on display. This same aesthetic applies to set changes which are accentuated rather than hidden.
Fanciful props and physical theatre add depth and wonder to the myth-like tale. In one memorable scene the cast take us from sunset to night with yellow and orange boxes that are flipped to reveal dark blue tones. A river gurgling as it carries car parts and litter downstream is another triumph of the imagination.
Structurally, the story bounces back and forward through time. A more linear composition might have helped the tension build to greater heights. However the untethered structure does reflect the dreamlike nature of the piece and provides yet another watery motif.
With a bittersweet story, inspired theatrical flourishes and plenty to dissect at Q Bar afterwards, Just Above The Clouds deserves to be circled in red in your Fringe programme.
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