Duck, Death and the Tulip

Duck lives a typical duck existence: she eats snails, swims in ponds and sleeps peacefully at night. Death does not understand why the tulip that just sprang out of the earth shrivels at its touch, and it seems like it could do with some company. One day, Duck realises that Death is following her, but as Death explains, it has been following Duck throughout her life so that it could be by her side, should life strike. In fact, things that could kill Duck, such as a cold or a duck accident, are not Death’s, but Life’s doing, and Death is only there to accompany duck on her last journey. Duck is convinced and she and Death strike a beautiful friendship, where Duck warms up Death when it feels cold, and Death makes Duck tea.

Lighting and costumes are skilfully designed so that McNeil is nearly invisible as she animates Duck, which contributes to the visual magic of this piece.

Based on the book Duck, Death and the Tulip by German illustrator Wolf Erlbruch, and adapted by Peter Wilson, this show from New Zealand company ‘Little Dog Barking’ does something useful and beautiful at the same time. It talks delicately about death and its presence in the life cycle, explaining its necessity and how it need not to be feared. It is a show for all ages, doing a lovely job at introducing the subject of death to the youngest and shining a new, softer light on it for older audiences too.

Unlike in other stage adaptations of Erlbruch’s story, this production uses puppeteers Peter Wilson and Shona McNeil. They bring to life a lovely fable-world with a few props and simple puppets, proving once again that theatre is often at its best when it is at its most simple. They move swiftly behind and in front of a table, with Wilson portraying Death both through a table-top puppet and ‘in person’. Lighting and costumes are skilfully designed so that McNeil is nearly invisible as she animates Duck, which contributes to the visual magic of this piece. This is sweetly accompanied by Gareth Farr’s soundtrack, which welcomes the audience and leaves them as they leave the auditorium.

It is endearing, and it says a lot about humans, seeing how audience members of different ages giggle and weep during the same scenes. This is one of those rare shows that equally delights toddlers and their parents, and reaches out to both. Not to be missed.

Reviews by Alex Reeves

Summerhall

Duck, Death and the Tulip

★★★★
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★★★
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★★★
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Performances

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The Blurb

Duck, Death and the Tulip is a strangely heart warming story. A duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death. Simple, unusual, warm and witty. The superb use of mime, magic and puppets allows the play to deal with a difficult subject in a way that is elegant and thought provoking. The story will intrigue and enchant both children and adults alike!

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