La Boite: The Harbingers of Excellence
When I was in America, I was having a conversation with an artist who was learning the craft of puppetry. At the time, she had performed a few shows with puppets, but all for children and she remarked to me how she wished that in America, there was more interest and proliferation of puppetry for adults. If there is a dearth of adult, 'serious' fantasy and puppet theatre in the USA, I squirm to articulate the lack of it in Australia. But, once again, the answer to a gaping creative chasm and desperately needed niche can be found, adequately and excellently filled at La Boite Theatre Company: Brisbane's home of exciting and relevant theatre product that pushes the boundaries of imagination and creativity.
Last night I was treated to "The Harbinger" at La Boite's Roundhouse theatre, which is a re-incarnated version of one of the hits from their INDIE season last year. From the outset, this peaks my interest and encourages me to lather on the compliments and acclaim for La Boite theatre company. Again, they show they are the stalwart defenders of 'the new' in Brisbane's theatrical playground. Again, a new company with emerging work is given space, resources and backing to bring their excellent and beautiful breams to warm and appreciative audiences and widespread critical acclaim.
"The Harbinger" is a slick, brooding fairy-tale set in a decomposing and frightening city where disease, poverty and pollution has all but snuffed the life from the streets. In a broken down and boarded up bookstore a runaway orphan girl takes shelter from the dark menace who pursues her. Inside she discovers Albert, the beautifully realized puppet-character who is a storyteller and inventor, harboring a dark and painful past. As she lives with, plays with and works with Albert, the girl begins to unravel his stories and the story of Albert's youth, his romance and the fate of his wife is told before our eyes with more wonderful puppetry.
The story is magical, whimsical, light and effortless and yet is measured with a brooding, gothic pace reminiscent of "The Nightmare Before Christmas", "Corpse Bride" or "Coraline". "The Harbinger" is a wonderful and vividly realized event in storytelling, it is simple and yet profound. It's themes are understated and it's ideas of love, beauty, story, nature find their way into your sore through long forgotten pores. The audience is in rapt attention, all adults suddenly become, once again, the smallest of children gathered at the storyteller's feet to hear tales of magic, terror and wonder.
This is stunning work. Magical, beautiful, vivid and sensational. It shows the possibilities when innovation, creativity and hard work are backed. It is international standard in terms of its quality, complexity and brilliance and yet it is not in New York, nor Europe nor even Melbourne that we are viewing this work, but in Brisbane. It fills me with such warm pride to see Brisbane talent being the engine of such staggering beauty.
There is no other way to say that the design and technical complexity of this show deserves an award. Again, I find myself in the position of wanting to award accolades I do not have the ability to, but this show's set, costume, makeup, lighting and technical design are flawless, first rate and exhibits of the highest grade of technical prowess and skill I have seen in the Roundhouse to date. My applause goes to the whole design team at The Dead Puppets society for what they have created here. The star of the show is undoubtedly 'Albert', who, for a puppet, is a surprisingly vivid and broad human character, deep, complex and wonderful in scope, he has been brought totally to life and it is a magnificent achievement.
This work astounds with its simplicity, its mastery and display of technical prowess. Strong performers, expert direction, a simple, fable like story, profound and yet uncomplicated, meaningful, yet understated. This show is for adults, but I saw possibilities that could make it for any age, it has all the makings of those rare theatrical products that defies time, age, gender, race, culture. It is a magical and effortless feeling play that is propelled by staggeringly good talent who have worked very hard to deliver what is an exceptionally praise worthy product. Bravo!
"The Harbinger" shows at La Boite's Roundhouse theatre until the 1st of September. Not to be missed. Tickets available from http://www.laboite.com.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=697