Tuxedo Cat
Until 28 Feb 2017

Review by Paige Mulholland

“The Divination Agency” is definitely a thinker – with a non-linear narrative and complex themes of spiritualism and life after death, the show may not be for everyone, but certainly leaves audiences curious.

The show follows the story of Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman (playing herself) and her ancestors – primarily her father, who died when Trench-Thiedeman was young, and her grandmother, who was known in her native Sri Lanka as a medium who used a “talking table” to communicate with the dead. Through puppetry, storytelling, and short scenes, Trench-Thiedeman and her cast mate Kat Taylor explore Trench-Thideman’s history, as well as attitudes to spiritualism throughout history and the experience of grief.

The show is difficult to follow and some scenes, such as a slapstick act about men scaring each other with ghost costumes, feel out of place and do not seem to serve a purpose in the show. The highlight of the show is the shadow puppetry – although some shapes occasionally fail to come together, some of the scenes the cast manages to create using light and shadow are outstanding. The actors occasionally bumble into chairs and props; given the number of props constantly entering and leaving the stage this is unsurprising, but perhaps indicates that the small stage they use is not ideal considering the complexity of the show.

While the lighting is simple, effective and does an excellent job of keeping the focus on the puppetry and visual aspects of the show, the sound needs improvement – often the soundtrack is so loud that you cannot hear the actors (even though they are only a metre away), and other times it hardly be heard at all. This is not helped by the fact that, through the thin walls of Tuxedo Cat, you can hear the bell tower on King William Road chiming regularly.

Many audience members will leave “The Divination Agency” scratching their heads, but perhaps, considering the mysterious nature of the subject matter, this is intentional. However, lovers of puppetry and an interesting family history will enjoy this show.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)