reviews for Flyboy is alone again
charming, sometimes heartbreaking little
stories are delivered as adult shadow-puppet operas, comprising
homemade cardboard figures and sets, and accompanied by a superb
They create a complete world, one that's full of
and unrequited love, but with a surreal and occasionally snappy humour
. . .
The whole thing feels like watching a silent movie in which
every aspect has been created by a wayward child genius.
see why audiences and theatremakers alike are beguiled by this kooky
West Country artist, whose brand of low-fi
storytelling taps into our new-found affection
for the homemade and wholesome.
homespun tales mix the everyday with the surreal and are
delivered in a chatty, cosy style, accompanied by a hodgepodge
seven-piece band and illustrated with
nothing more than an
projector and pieces of cardboard
minutely crafted tribute to nostalgia, disappointment and the
power of the imagination will appeal to your inner Peter Pan
It brings the authors madness and
genius to the fore
– coupled with an on stage orchestra, in which
talented Matthew Robins himself also champions the piano and
a relatively lengthy production that balances the fun of simple
child-like art with mature folklore, romantic- and science-fiction
type stories, it successfully finds the
middle ground making the play
must see for the heartier kid who can live without the “happily
ever-after” finale, and also inevitably, a play that
the kid in every adult shall relish!
Even in the darkest moments there
is a lightness that
elicits sympathetic “awwws” from the audience. Robins
is funny and entertaining enough to make the absurdity
enjoyable, the tangents less jarring.
The Financial Times
The Cornish puppeteer and
musician Matthew Robins appears
to have little trouble exposing his inner child. The unabashed
yet self-deprecating openness of his personality is a big
part of what makes this rambling,
but agreeably cosy showcase of his work so endearing.
music is in the indie-folk vein. Peppered with pop
inflections, the tunes slip easily between tempos that vary from
klezmer-like jauntiness to a lilting waltz. The tales they convey
are odd slivers of surreal whimsy, most of which feature the titular
his miniaturist universe is the romance of friendship and,
as a corollary, an underlying longing to belong. It’s a
place of boyhood crushes, loneliness and gentle obsessions
that contain an implied tolerance for taking people as they are.
and the Beast
Robins skilfully advances the narrative through a series of
silhouettes that have something of the
deft wit of Picasso sketches.
eldritch shadow puppets: snipped with gothic delicacy from black paper,
their crooked fingers reach
directly into your imagination.
Shadow play whisks us through
sequences of narrative with
witty silhouettes depicting insubordinate topiary that
shifts when Beauty's back is turned and
cakes and jellies that shake with mirth at a good human joke.
reviews for Something Very Far Away
Watkins, What'sOnStage, 7th June 2012 *****
Unicorn Theatre’s Clore Studio, you're greeted by a bewildering
array of techie gadgets spread across the stage. There are lights,
tripods, cameras, projectors, screens and a mixing desk, but no room
for actors… a pretty big clue that you're about to witness
something out of the ordinary.
The show is,
fact, completely extraordinary. The action is animated before your eyes
by five performers through the use of puppetry, shadow puppetry,
projection, lights and live and recorded music. It can be said with
some certainty that this is a theatrical experience unlike any you will
have had before.
by Mark Arends, is simple. An astronomer loses his wife in a tragic
circus accident and, remembering that "the deeper into space you look,
the further into the past you see", he decides to build a spaceship to
see if the same is true in reverse. If he travels away from Earth and
looks back, will he be able to see his wife again?
It can be
some certainty that this is a theatrical experience unlike any you will
have had before. Matthew Robins’ design and animation is
exceptional. The techniques in use are constantly changing but
seamlessly mixed, providing angles and effects of which any animated
film-maker would be proud. The possibility to glance away from the
action on the main screen to watch the creative processes involved
reminds us, however, that this is all being done live. I defy any
audience member not to remain entranced for the show’s
(all-too-short) 35-minute duration.
Randall’s lighting design perfectly sets the mood for each scene,
with one particularly magical sequence that seems to envelop the
audience as the spaceship makes its journey through the universe.
This is a
show, telling an uncomplicated but moving story about the lengths to
which people will go to remember their lost loved ones. Told in an
endlessly inventive way that will enthral adults and children, it is
quite simply captivating.
|Jake Orr, A Younger Theatre, 7th June 2012
When Purni Morell took over the artistic direction of The Unicorn
Theatre there was an air of excitement over the work and artists which
she could bring across from her time leading the National Theatre
Studio. Something Very Far Away, a piece first developed under
Morell’s leadership by Mark Arends and Matthew Robins at the NT
Studio is given a full mounting in the studio at The Unicorn Theatre,
and rightly so. A tale of heartbreaking beauty and tender loss, which
travels to the outer depths of space in the search of universal answers
to love and life. Whilst billed for ages eight and above, it could
render any adult blubbering into their tissues. It is a production of
epic proportions told in miniature puppets and animations.
Robins is no
stranger to giving a quirky story a twist of animated life; his
continuous adventures with Fly Boy (yes, a boy who is a fly) have been
running for several years, played with a band of musical players and
puppeteers. Whilst Arends may not be known for his creative style, his
work with Katie Mitchell in recent years in productions such as The Cat
in the Hat and Beauty and the Beast have clearly edged him into the
fun-filled quirkiness of thinking imaginatively with theatre. Something
Very Far Away, at just 35 minutes long, is a wonderfully inventive and
playful piece written and directed by Arends with puppetry and design
by Robins – a delightful collaborative pairing.
extremely simplistic but this makes it even more endearing. Kepler,
after losing his wife Tomasina in a tragic circus accident, sets about
building a rocket in his home that will fly him to a distant planet.
For it is only by seeing into outer space, will he be able to see the
past that has been. Kepler travels for light years, stopping at planets
and gazing back at the world he left behind. He even reaches the end of
the universe (it’s still under construction) in his quest for the
enduring the love he once had. Poetic, silent and beautifully emotive,
this tender tale is lovingly played out for its audience through
projection, animation and simple puppetry.
Robins’s previous work, and touching on filmic qualities of
another puppetry company The Paper Cinema, Something Very Far Away uses
cameras and layering of rod and shadow puppetry to blend this poetic
story. Through its simplistic nature, which has a
rough-around-the-edges and hand-made quality to it, we get lost in
Kepler’s tale, perfectly manipulated by the puppeteers against
live guitar and recorded soundtracks. The piece is inherently a silent
one, but the tale is clear and the themes universal.
great to see a show aimed at young people aged revelling some of
the more complex emotions that we humans experience. The loss of a
loved one is never easy, and here I speak as someone who has recently
been bereaved, but in Something Very Far Away is is never played down,
never simplified for the audience’s sake; it is, as grief is,
simple and honest, a declaration of love that is universal and endless.
For those who do take young children there is nothing to fear in this
work, it should be celebrated for its level of maturity and beauty.
Gardner, The Guardian, Sunday 10th June 2012 ****
How far would
love? That's a question raised in this infinitely touching little piece
about deep space and deep affection that uses live animation techniques
similar to those used by Paper Odyssey, so that you see the show being
created before your very eyes. The puppets and the settings are
manipulated by the performers in front of video cameras while at the
same time you see the projected image up on a massive screen. You know
that rain falling is created with a sieve; the explosive crackle of a
cannon is a lit sparkler, and you can see that the planets are made out
of papier mache.
of creation alongside the final created images doesn't detract from the
experience, but actually magnifies it. This show may be small – a
35 minutes long – but it is big in every way, particularly its
emotions. At its heart is Keppler, an astronomer who loves the stars
and his wife. But when she is killed in a circus accident, Keppler
remembers that the deeper into space you look, the further into the
past you see.
taps into intense feelings of loss and the urge to see your beloved one
last time. But the whole thing – suitable for the over eights
– is done
with a lightness of touch and a delightful quirkiness. Despite the
amount of kit, this is actually a very low-tech show whose real
strength is its consummate storytelling, with echoes of Orpheus and
Eurydice. The only thing that would improve it would be if audiences
got a chance to play with the techniques themselves afterwards. Then
this wouldn't just be gorgeous, it would be truly inspirational, too.
Francis, Animations Online, 6th June 2012
believed in the suppression of dishonest illusion and the involvement
of the spectators in performance. He was part of a zeitgeist which
brought the puppeteers onto the stage in an attempt to denude the
puppets of their ‘magic’ life, to show the mechanics of
their artificiality. I wonder what Brecht would have thought of some of
the new puppetry, seen in the work of Paper Cinema and Matthew Robins,
where there is not only the visible puppeteer and the controls of the
puppets, but in addition a very forest of technology – cameras,
cables, screens, lighting and sound equipment - all of which confront
the audience on entering. Absolute death to illusion, you might think
– but at least to some extent you would be wrong. After the
showing of Something Very Far Away at the Unicorn’s theatre for
young people, one spectator confessed to weeping at the plight of the
puppet couple separated by death but reunited in the stars.
She had reacted to
the simplest and most unlikely of love stories told with roughly made
and manipulated puppets and shaky little props, contrasted with
delicate and beautiful backgrounds and sets both two- and
three-dimensional, all of which were managed by four operators
scuttling back and forth between the six work stations from which the
action was projected onto the big screen at the back of the cluttered
staging area. There remained little room for imagination. Yet somehow,
for some of the people present, illusion – the belief in the
characters and their story - was maintained.
For me, and
probably for many, interest in the mechanics and the actions of the
operators held my attention more than the distilled story shown on the
screen. Something Very Far Away was written and directed by Mark
Arends, with expert lighting by Declan Randall. The five performers,
who acted as manipulators not only of rod puppet figures but of cameras
and musical instruments (and more), were Mark Arends
(‘music’ the programme says), David Emmings, Avya Leventis,
Julia Slienger and Ben Whybrow, all excellent contributors to a
complicated but thoroughly professional show.
The unique style
of Matthew Robins’ silhouettes is now well-known, as is his
character ‘Flyboy’. His work has been projected onto the
flytower (a deliberate association?) of the National Theatre and he is
now working with the National on an adaptation of the Macdonald fairy
story about the Light Princess.