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The Harbinger: Puppet Masters

The Harbinger
Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

La Boite Theatre is giving you the chance to let your imagination run free with The Harbinger, the latest puppet production from Dead Puppet Society.

But let's be clear: there is nothing childlike about this puppet show.

"It’s definitely not recommended for children," explains Niki-J Price, one of the show's lead actors and puppeteers. "It’s dark and mysterious. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on which is what I love because it is different. It’s not mainstream or what you would expect to go see in a theatre in Brisbane.

"It has a dark Tim Burton-esque quality and quirkiness... you have this old fella, The Harbinger, and a girl comes into his world and he is jolted to have flashbacks and memories of his past. It’s a love story but you see it falling apart in some places.”

The Harbinger puppet show is a live performance with elements of animation and stage trickery helping to tell the story. The puppeteers steer the show, and as a laughing Niki-J laughs says, "we’re not trying to be ninjas and completely hidden. We are definitely there and we have a kind of persona, but not to pull focus at all away from the puppets."

This is Niki-J’s first experience with puppets, and she describes it as "intense... we’ve never done this before and it’s learning a whole new skillset. Not only do I have to be a character and the psychology emoting [from] all that; I have to condense all that into this external object. The challenge for me is to keep absolutely still and channel all the emotion and energy so it comes through the puppet and not me.

"It’s a very different challenge as far as being an actual performer or actor, to condense everything to absolute stillness when you want to express yourself with your own hand but you have to channel that energy to your puppet. There isn’t a lot of puppetry in Australia, which is why I think this show has a lot of interest."

The darkness of the show sets the mood for the audience, and Niki-J says to pack some tissues. "You can expect a rollercoaster of emotions. You have moments where you want to cry, moments you want to vomit and moments that will make you laugh out loud."

For all its challenges, Niki-J paints an enlightened view of what puppetry and the show has taught her about the human condition.

"If you see it as a blank canvas and then build from the text, the puppets’ journey highlights to me that everyone in this world is a blank canvas to begin with and our experiences just make us who we are."

Enlightening as it may be for Niki-J, this show is sure to expand your imagination at the very least. Come in with no expectations, and walk away having had an emotional journey.

The Harbinger plays at La Boite Theatre from August 11 to September 1.

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