REVIEW: Falling Through Clouds | Last Great Hunt

PICA Performance Space

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Last Great Hunt, a theatre company that’s not even a year old but is wise and practiced beyond its years, has launched its second official show at PICA Performance Space. ‘Initiating Artist’ Tim Watts and co-creators Adriane Daff, Arielle Gray and Chris Issacs have devised an innovative new work called Falling Through Clouds. Full of imagination, puppets, real-time video projection, animation, and a beautiful soundtrack by Ash Gibson Greig, Falling Through Clouds is an ingenious little gem that will be sure to gain momentum over time.

EDIT: You used to be able to read the full review on X-Press here.


The story follows the journey of Mary (Adriane Daff), a scientist who is saddled with the task of bringing birds back from extinction and teaching them to fly. She is transported to a remote mountainous island via hot air balloon, and begins work on three eggs, two of which hatch and grow into adult birds through the course of show. This is all done with bits of paper, balloons, torches, and the fine puppetry skills of the performers. Watts, Isaacs and Gray are fully visible manipulators, but they’re subsumed by their puppets through lighting, costume and movement.

What makes The Last Great Hunt’s brand of theatre so unique is that puppetry just one element in an entire multi-media soup. Just when you think you know what they’re up to, the team sneaks in something so visually surprising and magical that it makes the audience release a collective “ahh.” There are a few little kinks that still want ironing out; perhaps a prop gets turned the wrong way, a music cue gets cut short, a set piece gets skewed slightly, but these are only tiny hiccups, and only noticeable because I’ve seen Watts and Co.’s previous, nearly flawless productions.

The ensemble gives ideas and moments time to breathe so that the audience has space to absorb everything we’re seeing, which is often a lot at once. The show is gentle and sweet, but also quite mysterious and sometimes unsettling in the way that it deals with Mary’s dream world. It might not be as emotionally cathartic as It’s Dark Outside or even Alvin Sputnik, but it holds you in its grasp in other ways. Through the use of live video, we are able to see just how invested in the story Daff is, or to go ‘backstage’ with one of the puppets, or to have multiple perspectives on a single action simultaneously.

Composer Ash Gibson Greig has spent a good deal of time working closely with the ensemble up until the very last minute, revising cues and reworking scenes. The result is that the music and sound design are integral to the fabric of the piece. Another integral part of this ensemble is Anthony Watts (Time Watts’s father), the designer and perhaps the technical wizard who made sure everything lit up correctly, although no one is officially credited as lighting designer.

Is it too much of a leap to speculate that Falling Through Clouds heralds the birth and maturation of not only a couple of paper puppet birds, but also the maturation of a new kind of theatre in Perth, if not globally? Time will tell, and with the support these young creatives are receiving to bring their imaginations to life, the sky’s the limit.