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Award-winning adult puppetry production tours South Island

Award-winning adult puppetry production tours to four South Island venues in August and September

Acclaimed puppet theatre company Tablo is bringing its award-winning production ‘In Absentia’ to venues in Nelson, Westport, Oamaru and Ashburton in August and September.

Christchurch-based Tablo is driven by puppeteers and long-time creative collaborators Simon van der Sluijs and John Cohen-Du Four. As New Zealand’s only theatre company dedicated to producing finely-honed adult puppet drama, this is not children's puppetry but subtly nuanced, dramatic performance akin to contemporary European and North American puppet theatre.

‘In Absentia’ earned Tablo a Dunedin Fringe Theatre award for Best Production Design when it premiered at the festival in 2013 (along with nominations for Best Theatre and Best of Fringe).

The show traverses issues of love and loss, growing old, care giving, loneliness and religion – ultimately providing a mesmerising glimpse into the world of dementia. “This production features everything from life-size and miniature puppets to automata and shadow puppetry, and an array of unusual staging devices,” says John Cohen-Du Four.

Dunedin Fringe Festival judges described the production as “A work by master puppeteers ... mind blowingly imaginative” with Dunedin theatre critic Jonathan Marshall writing “the sheer creativity is both startling and enchanting. Alzheimer’s and senile dementia might seem less than appealing themes to employ for a piece of theatrical beauty ... I can only hope my own passing is so sublime.”

‘In Absentia’ went on to garner critical acclaim when it played to sold out shows in Christchurch and Hamilton last year with The Press reviewer Brigid Kelly describing it as a “technical triumph … expertly scripted, offering a complex and satisfying approach to storytelling. An enchanting, rich and sophisticated piece; it exhorts us to remember – and you will.”

In January Tablo was invited to pitch to the Performing Arts Network of New Zealand, resulting in its upcoming, fully-funded South Island tour. The company has also been invited to present ‘In Absentia’ at the Auckland Fringe Festival and Southland Arts Festival next year, in addition to receiving requests to tour to venues in Wellington, Tauranga and Napier.

“Alzheimer’s is a topic that resonates deeply with tens of thousands of New Zealanders,” says John. In 2011 more than 48,000 New Zealanders had been diagnosed with dementia. It is expected that the number will more than triple within the next 40 years. Staggeringly, the 2011 World Alzheimer’s Report estimated that only 60 per cent of cases of dementia are diagnosed in countries like New Zealand.

John says that the work has continually demonstrated a power to move people from all walks of life and to provide an opportunity for them to discuss their own experiences of Alzheimer’s.

“It's been wonderful and humbling to have so many people come up after each performance and share with us their personal family stories,” says John.

“The production is a creative work, first and foremost, rather than a piece which in any way seeks to educate or convey information about Alzheimer’s,” says John. “Its inspiration comes, in part, from personal experience, but the piece operates on a universal level as a work of theatrical art – imaginative, symbolic, moving, humorous, everything good theatre should be.”

Performance details:
Nelson: Wednesday 27 August and Thursday 28 August
Suter Theatre
Adult $29.90 (+service fees)
Seniors or groups of eight or more $25 (+ service fees)
Book at the theatre

Westport: Friday 29 August
NBS Theatre
Adult $29.90 (+service fees)
Seniors or groups of eight or more $25 (+ service fees)
Book at the theatre

Oamaru: Monday 1 September and Tuesday 2 September 2014
Opera House
Adult $29.90 (+service fees)
Seniors $25 (+ service fees).
Book at the theatre or online at

Ashburton: Thursday 4 and Friday 5 September
Ashburton Trust Event Centre,
Adult $29.90 (+service fees)
Seniors or groups of eight or more $25 (+ service fees)
Book at the theatre or online at

About Tablo:
Tablo – The Notional Theatre Company of NZ was formed in 2009 to create productions specialising predominantly in life-size puppetry for adult audiences, presenting surreal artistic experiences that invite audiences to suspend their disbelief and go on a unique theatrical journey.

Tablo have produced three stage shows, a number of short films, presented workshops and Canterbury University lectures, and performed cabaret and street theatre in NZ and abroad, including the Adelaide Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe, and festivals in England and France.

The Company’s founders and two principal performers, Simon van der Sluijs and John Cohen-Du Four, design and create all the puppets, props, scripts, sets, costuming, original music, and audio/visual material.

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