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September 23, 2013 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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One of the biggest regrets of my theatre-going adventures this year was to see Long Cloud’s Oneironaut —the idea of a show’s characters taking you through their world with promenade staging seemed so revolutionary and rare that I melodramatically thought I may never get the chance to experience it again. Fortunately, I was given a second chance recently with Hank of Thread’s wonderful Kaitiaki, an interactive exploration of the New Zealand bush, with its actors embodying the native critters we so often take for granted.

Kaitiaki is satisfying because it successfully achieves its goal of helping us realise the potential we have in either protecting or destroying the environment, and immerses us in a sensuous experience as it does so. The impeccably complex lighting, set, and sound designs complimented the simplistic storytelling form that our forest friends led. Whether it be through their charming characterisations of creatures like the goofy Ponga (Simon Haren), the ‘too cool to move’ Patricia the Bat (Freya Sadgrove), and the various dancing Sprites, or the constant musicianship of obscured actors playing birds and various instruments in the trees, it is the actors’ energy that makes the bush’s atmosphere authentic and vibrant. As we continue to interact with the characters and the space in different ways (literally becoming tree-huggers at one point), we have a renewed appreciation for all the links and relationships between species that makes up our ecosystem.

However, its ending did not build up enough momentum to leave any profoundly lasting effects about how I need to change my eco-unfriendly habits. Reintroducing the evil bureaucrat Susan Plainview (Sherilee Kahui) who intends to tear down “this not-very-interesting forest” and build apartment complexes and a refuse in its place, does wake us up to our complacency, but we needed to have more of this ugly human presence among the vulnerable wildlife for this foil to feel like a serious threat.

Kaitiaki is a sumptuous journey that, while targeted at New Zealand’s younger generation, anyone can willingly get lost in.

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