Magic behind the shadows

“Shadowland”. Photo by Emmanuel Donny

“Shadowland”. Photo by Emmanuel Donny

“SHADOWLAND”, the American sensation that mixes up the ancient traditions of circus and shadow-theatre to bring an entirely new experience to the stage, is coming to Canberra later this month.

Behind a series of huge, moving shadow screens, a disciplined group of gymnast-actors contort, dance, move and morph seamlessly from one on-stage creature to another, as they tell the story of a young girl who falls asleep then wakes to find something lurking behind her bedroom wall – her shadow.

From the audience, there is always the wonder of how it’s done, what’s going on behind the screen?

“Shadowland”. Photo by Emmanuel Donny

“Shadowland”. Photo by Emmanuel Donny

I’m talking to Krystal Butler, a member of Pilobolus Dance Theater (named after a fungus), which is bringing “Shadowland” to the Canberra Theatre as part of its first Australian showing.

“In ‘building’ an elephant you might have your arms in front of your body, your head contours it and your feet in the ‘plié’ position for three seconds – and then you have to move… It takes a lot of muscles that I never knew I had, you have to be flexible and strong,” Butler tells “CityNews”.

“When people see us morphing from one creature to another, they go wild about it.”

In “Shadowland”, Butler says, “it took a lot of work to make it look as real as possible… it’s not magic, but it looks like it.”

There are very few ‘reveals’, although the last section of the show opens the screens so the audience can see everything. The cast often meets children after the show to discuss what they’re doing, but to Butler, it’s the serious work of creating “the magic of the shadow”.

“Shadowland”, Canberra Theatre, June 21-22. Bookings to 6275 2700 and canberratheatrecentre.com.au

“Shadowland”. Photo by Emmanuel Donny

“Shadowland”. Photo by Emmanuel Donny

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