The stage was very simple with a single wooden workstand, a wooden crate, a mike, and a red fabric background. One guy ambled onto stage and began to tell a story by singing a story of the sea. Then he was bending his leather belt rolled in a tight coil to record a creaking sound and then he blew into the microphone

and magically, the sounds looped and became the rhythmic creaking of a boat out at sea. Nic was joined by Jof and they swayed back and forth on their boat. I was captivated as was the seven children with me.

They proceeded to tell the story of Jof’s life from birth (wherein a gull appears, made of knotted rope)

And how the boat split in half (dramatically re-enacted with a boat carved out of a loaf of french bread) which led to a land-based life with the circus. There Jof met his one true love before running off to his other love, the sea. A wise Japanese fisherman tells him to find her before its too late, and Jof does, but he does not stay.

With puppetry wonders (fabric slung over Nick’s knee and calf becomes her swaying skirt, his forearm her body and his fist covered with a bonnet and blond braids, bobbed convincingly as Jof’s one true love); simple circus acrobatics; and a lovely narrative about the windy path of love and life and death, the audience never stopped believing for one single instant.

This one-hour production intended for children may well be the most ingenious and creative acts of story-telling that I have ever encountered. It was Boats by the Terrapin Puppet Theatre from Tasmania of all places. I was lucky to see it at the Segerstrom last Friday.

P.S. Here is a video clip from the Terrapin Puppet Theater website. I wasn’t surprised to discover that this show is an award-winner. Lots more clips of their other productions.

Boats Highlights from Kevin O’Loghlin on Vimeo.

P.S.S. I saw this show for $6. The Segerstrom offers special school group field trip rates for a series of family shows every year. The catch is that you have to organize and pay for the tickets waaay back in August and September in order to get seats. Interestingly, this was the best show so far, but least attended. Sadly, a gap between the show’s unique ingenuity and effective promotion.

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