REVIEW: Whimsical show wows adults and children alike

Whimsy and wonder leap from the stage during the charming New Zealand fairy tale The Road That Wasn’t There.

This show is everything you want it to be, and more. It’s filled with imagination, magic, a touch of darkness, and most importantly, excellent storytelling.

It seems to meander between the wonderful world of Roald Dahl, the mind of Tim Burton, and the heart of Neil Gaiman.

You’ll want to take your children and your grandparents to this, because The Road That Wasn’t There is a tale everyone will love. Told with superb puppetry and enchanting shadow play, it is a must see for the young and the young at heart.

Written by Ralph McCubbin Howell and directed by Hannah Smith, this award-winning tale is set in an uncanny world at the end of one of New Zealand’s many paper roads.

A young girl strays from the beaten track and finds herself in this paper world. It’s everything she wanted life to be like, but she soon realises not everything is as it seems.

Mirroring that paper world is a clever stage set in which nearly every element is made of paper or cardboard. The desks, the windows, the maps, and the lovely little bird. Even the puppets are papier-mâché.

Ralph McCubbin Howell, Paul Waggott and Elle Wootton do an outstanding job of bringing this paper world and its many characters to life. They slip between the old and the young, the real and the magic and the light and the dark, weaving in characterisation and depth as they go.

The children in the audience laugh musically as the trio’s many characters take to the stage. There’s strange old Maggie, nosey Rosie her neighbour, poor Gabriel the long suffering son and even Constable Good-One.

Then the story turns magical and the puppets arrive, bringing monsters and perfectly tall tales with them. The children are silent as the drama unfolds, hanging on to every wonderfully written word, and every note of live music.

At the end of the tale it’s the adults who cheer the loudest, because they’ve been swept back to the magical and imaginative world of their childhoods.

But, not be be outdone, one child captures the feeling of the audience in a single sentence.

“That’s better than any movie I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life,” he says, beaming.

And it truly is.

The Road That Wasn’t There
Trick of the Light Theatre
Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, May 18 and 19

Tickets from Ticketek
Reviewed by Taryn Utiger