Ishmael Review @ Brisbane Festival 2021

  • Written by 
  • Friday, 10 September 2021 14:16
Published in Arts News  
'Ishmael' 'Ishmael' Image © Dean Hanson

A retelling of 'Moby Dick' but in space, this production is visually awesome, combining puppetry, film and traditional acting to create a truly unique performance.


Dead Puppet Society’s production of 'Ishmael' doesn’t use conventional puppets to tell this story. For anyone imagining a grown-up 'Sesame Street' – this is not that. It’s better. It can take a few minutes to understand how puppets are being used, it is so seamless. Fortunately, the puppets are operated on the sides of the stage, so that the audience can see the techniques – rather than subtracting from the 'world' created by the play, it adds to it.

The story is told by only three actors, with one taking on multiple parts. Barbara Lowing, who plays several characters, but most notably Captain Ahab, is the clear stand-out. She is incredible, and commands the audience’s attention whenever she takes the stage.

The one drawback of the performance is Ishmael herself. She is played as aggressive, strident and totally off-putting. It was difficult to develop any empathy for her, and if she got sucked out into space halfway through the story, the audience wouldn’t have cared much. This makes the evolution of her relationships with the other characters difficult to believe; chemistry is lacking.

The visual aspects of the show are outstanding. The original score by Bec Sandridge and collaborators elevates the visuals, and provides atmosphere. It was not surprising to learn that the music was original, it so perfectly matched the story.

'Ishmael' is an outstanding production, unlike anything else hitting the stage. Make a visit to space part of your BrisFest agenda.

‘Ishmael’ plays Queensland Performing Arts Centre until 18 September.

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