FALLING THROUGH CLOUDS – Thoughts by Nicholas Tan
What is it that makes great stories and great storytelling?
Last Saturday, I found myself asking these questions while watching The Last Great Hunt’s “Falling Through Clouds”. I have heard many positive reviews of other productions from the company and I, myself, saw ‘FAG/STAG’ at PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts) a while ago. Unlike most shows that I’ve watched, I didn’t do any background research on “Falling Through Clouds” (apart from reading the synopsis on the handout). So I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that there was limited dialogue in the performance. If had known that there were almost no words spoken, I probably would’ve entered the theatre with my prejudices bugging me because I had always thought that great theatre has (and should have) great dialogue. (Ironically, I was once a foot in a puppetry performance with no dialogue!). Thankfully, I was given this opportunity to watch “Falling Through Clouds” as I found myself immersed in it from beginning until end and was impressed by the use of live video, puppetry, as well as the lighting and sound design. All of the above factors came together in what I would describe as a great storytelling.
While the audio and visual effects enthralled me, I must mention here the story itself because it intrigued me and made me ponder many questions after the show had finished. “Falling Through Clouds” focuses on Henry (the first of its de-extinct species) and its relationship with Dr Mary Miller, its creator/parent. As a scientist, Dr Miller is often forced to ‘test’ Henry, which creates a complex relationship between the two.
While the show is family-friendly, I found myself having an inner philosophical conversation on the ideas and ethics of tough love, necessity and greater good. Where do we draw the line when we engage with these ideas? Miller makes the choice to free the bird but that doesn’t really end well for her. Well, it does … but in a bittersweet way. The ending says to me that just because you make the right choice doesn’t mean we reap good (and expected) results. I’m reminded of the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita: we are responsible for our actions but not the consequences. In that in the end, we must be able to have a clear conscience so that when our actions cause us to feel like we’re falling through clouds, we can face ourselves and the world.