Atop a mountain draped with green taffeta, a young puppet named Sorrel takes her first breath and opens her eyes to see the ocean. Alone except for her suitcase filled with prized possessions, she cautiously explores her miniature world and Dispatch begins. From Melbourne’s Barking Spider Visual Theatre, this artful journey will be Sorrel’s last voyage.
Inspired by the tenets of Hindu philosophy director and performer Penelope Bartlau developed Dispatch over the past three years with illusion and transformation as guiding aesthetics. A skilled puppeteer, Bartlau brings Sorrel to life with remarkable presence and with her engaging assistant (Justine Warner) she delicately guides the fate of our tiny heroine.
Dispatch is visually inventive, using petite props to great effect. As Sorrel interacts with her surroundings, they dance with Bartlau and Warner their life force. Particularly intriguing is a scene of two lost lovers, played by wisps of kelp that come alive in a fish tank – finally reunited. Magnets allow Sorrel to cradle objects in her small hands, and the audience cranes to see as she builds a house of cards only to have Warner blow them down.
With its emphasis on imagery, the Dispatch script relies too heavily on Sorrel’s childish musings for its dialogue, and the densely allegorical plot is stretched to accommodate visual moments, some of which seem unnecessary. An evocative sound design sets the ethereal atmosphere, yet Dispatch tends to wander adrift in its dream-state, finally testing the patience of its audience.
What excels in this production is accomplished without words, and lingers long after Sorrel’s last breath. Dispatch is arresting puppet theatre for thoughtful adults and youngsters alike.
Barking Spider Visual Theatre presents
Writer/Director Penelope Bartlau
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs | 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne
Dates: Wednesday 3 to Sunday 7 February 2010
Times: 8pm plus Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 February @ 4pm
Bookings: (03) 9662 9966 | www.fortyfivedownstairs.com