Much to discover along the road

New Zealand is littered with paper roads — but do these hypothetical highways head to heaven or hell?

Trick of the Light theatre traces the perilous path of a staunch lassie who discovers the road that wasn’t there and finds herself somewhere akin to through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole.

It’s a spooky mix of fable and fun, fear and resolve, and learning by making mistakes, especially when you’ve taken a wrong turn in life.

As the girl’s magical adventures are revealed, the alternative realities they conjure up are as relevant to adults as they are to children.

Skilled multitaskers Elle Wootton, Paul Waggott and writer Ralph McCubbin Howell create a real sense of wonder with a simple set, puppets and shadow characters in a show rich in puns, jokes and local references, although the hall swallowed a few of the quieter lines.

It’s a polished and charming tale for young and old, and also has possibly the best ever 15-second history of Captain Cook’s endeavours in the Pacific — quite appropriate for a show about heading off to unknown destinations.

For a change of pace, Chamber Music New Zealand gave us Songs of Travel, a well-balanced programme from the delightful pairing of Kiwi baritone Julien Van Mellaerts and South African pianist James Ballieu.

Ballieu’s delicate and sensitive accompaniment allowed Van Mellaerts free range to give expression and personality to songs from Ralph Vaughan Williams and Schubert lieder set to Goethe’s romantic poetry.

The recital also featured a festival commission, adding the tui to a series of Gareth Farr’s ornithological anecdotes based on Bill Manhire’s clever and startlingly perceptive poems.

Following the fluttery dotterel, the galumphing takahe and the lost huia, Farr’s new tui was jaunty and fun — perhaps a reflection of the festival that gave it wings.

-By Nigel Zega

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