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Truth, Dreams and Reality Converge In New BATS Play

"Death and the Dream Life of Elephants" by A Slightly Isolated Dog
Directed by Leo Gene Peters

Reviewed by Carolyn Meers
10 November -21 November BATS Theatre

death and the dream
life of elephants

Confusion, sadness, loneliness, fear, a view of humanity from a totally different angle -- just a typical day of the life of a Wellington twentysomething in Leo Gene Peters' latest directorial project "Death and the Dream Life of Elephants".

While at times baffling and heady with symbolism -- what is the "elephant" and why do we seek it? -- "Death and the Dream Life of Elephants" cuts through with powerful moments of grief, anxiety, and humour that temper the fantasy, lending balance and full emotion to the tale.

Wellington theatre collective, A Slightly Isolated Dog, began creating "Death" with the goal of exploring the "questions we face on a daily basis", which include musings on "death, growing older, family" and, of course, the ongoing search for personal purpose and meaning in life.

The play follows the emotional and spiritual meandering of Julian Gallo, a Wellingtonian in his late twenties who has recently lost his mother, quit his lucrative job and broken up with his girlfriend. Julian is ripe for an existential epiphany. After weeks of wandering the city alone, applying for jobs he doesn't want and generally wallowing, Julian is visited by an "art dealer" who demands that he hand over a very powerful elephant figurine that had belonged to Julian's late mother. The figurine allows a brief but complete glimpse of humanity in all its forms, throughout the world -- a sort of epic montage.

"Everyone sees something different" when they peer through this magical elephant, Julian is told, and its effects are dangerous but coveted.

Joining Julian is a cast of quirky but honestly rendered characters: a waitress who counts incessantly, her ageing grandmother who collects and names elephant figures, a Victoria student who likes to hold the hand of the Max Patte statue on the waterfront, and a surly private detective with a heavy breathing canine companion. Intermixed with other colourful individuals, "Death" presents a perspective that is age-old but constantly evolving: the angst, pain, and awkwardness of the quarter life crisis.

Visually, "Death" is and insightful and inspired, a creative spectacle.

Though the supernatural elements of the play are entrancing - if a bit puzzling -- it is the universally human moments in the play that shine through, disarmingly familiar and true. "Death" may appear as a piece of reverie, but its rooted firmly in the reality of being human.


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