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  • Flora Gosling

Review: Boulder (Pleasance Courtyard)

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

I will confess it now: I chose to see this show because the production photo looked interesting. Anyone who says they aren’t even little bit intrigued when they see marionettes is lying to themselves. Half A String’s “Boulder” tells the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus using puppetry, animation, with music composed and performed by Avi Simmons.

In this classic story, a man is caught in a ground-hog-day style loop trying to push a boulder up a hill, only for it to inevitably roll down every day. To tell such an epic story, two puppets are used; one the size of a small child, the other the size of a doll. We get to see both the physical and emotional struggles he faces.

For a story that consists of a puppet pushing a ball up a hill, one might expect the stage imagery to become repetitive. Alas, it does. In a disappointing outcome, the puppet’s face is not especially expressive, and the hill is unconvincing seeing as it is formed by pulling out a section of the large boulder for the smaller boulder to be rolled up.

The larger puppet isn’t as whimsical as one could hope, instead, it looks like a collection of strings and wood hanging off his puppeteer's body. To the show’s credit, it is made far more magical by its beautiful animations and Simmons spectacular music and vocals.

Sadly though the show has a slow pace for most of its run time, and it was only at the end that the underlying message of the piece comes through; i.e. the boulder represents the daily struggles of life. By viewing it through that lens, it becomes a moving, if flawed, piece of theatre that communicates almost wordlessly the pains of carrying on when you feel you are making no difference at all. Three stars. Whispers from the crowd: “I thought it was a story that was movingly told, with very clever use of scale. I really enjoyed it.

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