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How do I begin to describe this show and this story?

Words will not quite do it justice – and that’s probably why the show itself is wordless – but I’ll try.

Something Very Far Away by Unicorn Theatre is about a man, Kepler, who loves two things beyond all others – the cosmos and his wife, Tomasina. When he loses her suddenly in a tragic accident, he goes to extraordinary lengths to relive the last moments he spent with her. He knows that the further into space he looks, the further into the past he sees. So he embarks on an epic journey to travel deep into space so that he can look back into the past and see his dear wife.

Tomasina joining Kepler as he does some stargazing (Photo taken from the SISTIC website)

Kepler and Tomasina at the circus before the freak accident happened (Photo taken from the SISTIC website)

It’s supposed to be a children’s show, but it deals with very adult issues like death, loss, and a deep, enduring love. It was so moving, I found strong emotions welling up inside me and I had to hold back my tears.

You feel the deep affection between Kepler and Tomasina. Are amused how he’s the serious one and she’s so lively and playful. You feel intense sadness from Kepler’s sudden loss, not least because of the moving live music, but also because of the extremely delicate puppetry work by the performers. A little lowering of the head, a little movement of his hand, an appropriate stillness. You also feel the excitement, determination and hope as he builds his spaceship and flies off into deep space, literally to the end of the universe, to keep the memory of Tomasina alive. The way the emotions are conveyed, it doesn’t feel like you are watching puppets at all. You just feel.

Kepler’s shock after the accident (Photo taken from the Unicorn Theatre’s website)

The story itself is a simple one, but the emotions aroused are big and, I think, hard for young children to fully understand. It’s unusual for a children’s show to deal with death and sadness, but it’s something real that children have the face as they get older and experience loss themselves. The depth of Kepler’s love is also quite beyond the understanding of young children. There are a few light-hearted moments, but because of the themes, I think 6 years-old is the absolute minimum age. Even then many of the nuances will be lost on them. It’s really more appropriate for older, more mature children.

But what will be of endless fascination to audiences young and old is how the show is done. With four cameras, mini-stages with multiple sets, live-animation with hand puppets and shadow puppetry, the audience is treated to a backstage view of how a film is produced. The action from the four cameras are projected onto a screen at the back, at times showing the feed from just one camera, at times from several at the same time to give a dream-like effect. It is genius.

Puppetry projected on the screen behind (Photo taken from the SISTIC website).

I loved how you get close-ups of what the characters are doing, like seeing the details of Kepler’s books and maps. And I was intrigued at how all it took was some simple items to create wonderful effects on camera like a spaceship flying through the stars, and rain!

The most amazing part about the show is that somehow, even with the hive of activity before you, it never once distracts you from the beautiful storyline and the emotions it raises.

It was very good. Sad, yet sweet, and stirring.

Something Very Far Away is part of Esplanade’s Octoburst! festival and it’s on at the Esplanade Recital Studio until Monday, 6 Oct. Get your tickets through the SISTIC website or by calling the SISTIC hotline (63485555).

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