The Road That Wasn't There

A story of far-flung travels doesn't quite gel

★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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The Road That Wasn't There
Published 07 Aug 2017

Following the recent success of The Bookbinder, New Zealand's Trick of the Light Theatre are returning to the Fringe this year with The Road That Wasn't There, a revival of a show that first premiered in Edinburgh back in 2012. 

It follows Gabriel, an office worker living in London who gets called back to his native New Zealand to attend to his mother, who's getting more eccentric by the day. He arrives to a chaos of maps, knobless doors and colour changing house fronts, and decides to send his mum to a home.

In packing up the house, she regales him with tales of her youth. She was given a map by a mysterious fellow she met on her travels, and followed a paper road—one that should only exist on surveyors' maps—into a new world.

There's a spookiness underpinning the story when this hidden world goes awry, with touches of Tim Burton-esque flair. The company makes good use of puppetry and shadow puppetry, and the set is simple but effective, with a backdrop of maps on a washing line and cardboard boxes used as everything from a shopfront to a stage. 

It's an interesting premise, but the show doesn't quite come together. The main story gets lost amongst the tendrils that come off it, including a seemingly unrelated monster story and some unnecessary tertiary characters.

Whilst it's an entertaining enough hour, there's a certain magic that, like the road, isn't quite there.