The ancient Sisyphus myth meets visually beautiful execution in Half a String’s Boulder, however the show sometimes lacks precision in its storytelling.
Boulder, with its highly developed visual identity and sophisticated musical soundscape, is a piece that’d easily satisfy both children and their parents. Younger audience members will love the big puppets and the techniques employed to manipulate it, as well as Avi Simmons’ voice (which sounds like that of the true Disney princess). Their adult companions will meanwhile be captivated by the beautiful atmosphere created by the different design components, and the minimalist animations.
However, although there is no doubt as to the talent of both cast and Boulder‘s artistic team (the puppetry, live music and set design really are all of the highest quality), a constant question of ‘What exactly am I watching?’ lingers and does not leave audience in peace. The issue is that Half a Spring clearly intend the show to tell a story and share a philosophy; they are not simply shooting for a piece that exclusively aims to awaken the senses. And unfortunately this goal is not achieved – it’s genuinely difficult to work out exactly what we are being presented with at multiple moments of the hour, even when the story is based on an ancient myth that I’m relatively familiar with.
This is not to say that the show is not enjoyable – it is to a high degree – but it cannot help but leave a feeling of anticlimax at the end. The grumpy central character, and his relationship with the boulder he has to roll up the hill, is silently explored throughout the whole performance – but a large part feels hidden by the lack of spoken word, and that part is the missing piece of the puzzle that I think may complete this show.
Altogether, this iteration of Boulder seems like the basis for a great future show – with a superlative visual identity and atmosphere already developed. More attention could now be focused on really tightening the script and movement sections, to give the audience more clarity as to the exact narrative.