Clouds needs clearer vista

Adriane Daff and Tim Watts in Falling Through Clouds. Photo by Jarrad Seng


Falling Through Clouds

3 stars

Created and performed by Tim Watts, Arielle Gray, Adriane Daff and Chris Isaacs

The Last Great Hunt

PICA Performance Space


Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs are great in the dark. Put them in a black room, turn out the lights, get Watts' amazing dad to make things with paper and scissors, cardboard boxes, a few pin lights and a Texta or two - and the result is the highly original, engaging shows that have taken them around the world.

Falling Through Clouds is the third of these small sagas (following The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik and It's Dark Outside). This time Watts, Gray and Isaacs are joined by Adriane Daff, one of the other members of The Last Great Hunt Theatre Company.

Daff is Mary, a geneticist in a future where birds are extinct. She has a one-year contract to recreate a bird, and have it fly. Or, at least, that's what she dreams. Watts' idea (he's credited as the "initiating artist" here) is to bring her impossible dream to life.

The story of Mary and the two birds she creates, the sweet, compliant Jenny, and Henry, her rambunctious, needy, test-tube brother, is told through an intense barrage of live action, life-size and miniature puppetry, and still and moving projections.

But can they make us care whether Mary's dreams come true? Or whether Jenny and Henry fly or fall?

And that's the problem with the show; all the inventiveness, all the rich theatricality, gilds a somewhat thin emotional experience.

There's no doubt the 45 or so minutes watching the four of them do their stuff is eye-widening and wonderful.

The sheets of paper that become birds, the night sky that's bundled up and carried away, even the credits that, uniquely in my experience, start the show, constantly rock you back on your cerebral and sensory heels. Even their stance (the current fashion to tag yourself a "theatre maker" is never more appropriate than here) draws you to them; every set change, every light cue, every effect, is manipulated by the performers on stage and the discipline and, once again, inventiveness of it all is charismatic.

But it's not and can't be, cathartic. That needs a story with flesh on its bones, and characters you can get alongside. In truth, Falling Through Clouds doesn't have either yet.

That may change. The creative process Watts and co employ means Falling Through Clouds is still in development on this, its first, opening night. And we know, from their achingly moving It's Dark Outside, how capable they are of delivering steak as well as sizzle.

Falling Through Clouds ends on October 11.