Review: The Moon’s a Balloon

by Jane


The propensity for children to believe in magic is marvelous. They watch theatre with a sense of wonderment, not trying to figure out the trickery or catch the misdirection, but content with a belief that what they’re watching is real. To create a sense of wonder and mysticism in The Moon’s a Balloon, though, Patch Theatre Company uses something better than magic: they use science.

In its most compelling scene, dancer Rob Griffin moves around a solitary balloon, with just enough helium that it lightly skims on the top of the ground. Griffin deftly moves his body around the balloon, and his manipulation of the air surrounding it causes the balloon to move and appear sentient, creating a enchanting duet.

With dancer Katrina Lazaroff, the pair play with balloons that have been weighted and would sit in the palm of your hand, and balloons that extend meters in diameter and softly repel against the ground before falling back to earth. They run with helium balloons, their strings pulled taught to appear solid. Strings are dislodged and balloons fly up into the rafters; weighted balloons fall back down to earth.

Firmly embedded in dance theatre, this textless physical work feels like significant new territory for the company, while still feeling very much of the repertoire. The work was collaboratively created by the dancers and the rest of the creative team, and Lazaroff has previously created dance work for children in Skip also being featured in this year’s Come Out Festival – and it’s exciting to see this audience for the form being engaged in Adelaide.

While the work sometimes explores a friendship between Lazaroff and Griffin, the young audience responds the most to the work while the pair are teasing each other. It’s the tension in the work the audience has the most joy in: one dancer refusing to share a balloon with the other; the possibility a balloon will fly up and away.

With white costumes and white balloons, designer Morag Cook creates a simple palate which lighting by David Gadsden washes the stage in solid colours, or spots and highlights the balloons. Josh Bennett’s score is a mixture of pre-recording and live solo performance keeps proceedings moving along nicely. But through the show, the balloon’s the thing. It’s the centre of the work and the creativity, and from big to small it creates something big with simple joy.

Unfortunately, in the final moments of the work the stage is entirely taken over by projection art, and The Moon’s a Balloon loses its way.

For a show that is so invested in the complexity and the beauty that can be found in the simple and a show that finds power in the physical interplay between performer and balloon, it’s disappointing for the final moments to be invested purely in technology. While well mapped with modern technology, the graphics themselves feel from the eighties, and the scene only detracts from the physicality that came before it.

The Moon’s a Balloon shows the perception of magic that can be created from the real: there is no need to obscure that with what can be found in the digital.

Patch Theatre Company and the Come Out Festival present The Moon’s a Balloon. Collaboratively created by Josh Bennett (composer), Dave Brown (director), Morag Cook (designer), David Gadsden (lighting designer), Rob Griffin (performer), Roz Hervey (provocateur) and Katrina Lazaroff (performer).  At the Odeon Theatre until June 1st. More information and tickets