Frame’s work leaps to new heights of creativity on stage

Performing in Red Leap Theatre’s production of Owls Do Cry are Ross McCormack (left) and Arlo...
Performing in Red Leap Theatre’s production of Owls Do Cry are Ross McCormack (left) and Arlo Gibson. Photo: Andi Crown.

Owls Do Cry
Lake Wanaka Centre

Tiny Ruins
Pacific Crystal Palace

Friday, April 16

Janet Frame and Red Leap Theatre are a match made in arts heaven.

For both of them, rules and convention are there to be stretched and broken for artistic effect, leading to Frame’s strikingly rich descriptive power and Red Leap’s uncanny ability to ignore the literal and startle audiences with unbridled creativity.

Red Leap’s version of Frame’s classic partly-autobiographical first novel explodes into the theatre, elevating her word images from the page to the stage and giving them new dynamic life by adding music, song and dance and a technical toolbox of tricks to tickle the senses.

Director Malia Johnston’s six actor/collaborators emphasise the emotions of Frame’s early life and the hurdles she and her family faced before she found herself as a writer. It’s not easy watching, at times confusing and often beyond fringe.

This is not Frame’s version of the book, but it is extraordinary, inventive, immersive and highly energetic. It’s Frame’s imagination seen and raised by professional players who are comfortable taking extreme risks for great returns.

Red Leap’s production of Owls Do Cry might be way out there - but then so was Frame all those years ago.

And somehow I could imagine Janet sitting in the audience a few seats away in the darkness, eyes glittering as she takes in the spectacle, quietly chortling with glee.

Tiny Ruins, either Hollie Fullbrook solo or with her band, has been quietly gathering high praise for albums, collaborations and excellent live gigs, hence the full house for a great set of old and new songs touching on indie folk, intelligent pop and bursts of discord and psychedelia.

Despite a 20-minute power outage and playing with the full band for the first time in a year, it was effortless, warm and delightfully unpredictable. Rare treasure.

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