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DreamBIG Festival review: New Owner

Arts & Culture

Arielle Gray and Tim Watts are the exceptionally talented creators of New Owner and their ability to integrate puppetry, acting and animation in a story that genuinely appeals to audiences aged from seven to 70 is outstanding.

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The star of this show is a little white puppy called Bart, beautifully manipulated by Watts. Bart is rescued from an animal shelter by an elderly lady and everyone can identify with his antics of wanting to get on the bed to be with his new owner – it is amazing how a lick on the face can get a puppy what it wants.

We see the value of a companion dog for a lonely person and there is an abundance of cuteness and love, but New Owner presents a much deeper experience for its audiences by posing the question of what happens when an elderly dog owner struggles with their own health and can no longer care for a pet?

Left to fend for himself in the rain, Bart ends up on the run and homeless before finding a new puppy companion. The background animations showing them travelling down drains, through suburbs and in shops are totally captivating; this is a picturesque show and the creators find a range of ways to fuse acting with animation.

Amid the adventure, there is also danger, and New Owner lets the audience experience a range of emotions, as evidenced by the audible gasps of youngsters who were caught by surprise, comedy or a powerful feeling within.

The show explores human problems through a dog’s life, yet always maintains the idea that the world, while it can be harsh and cruel, is essentially a beautiful place. It’s a joy to watch.

New Owner is being presented at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre until May 26 as part of the DreamBIG Festival, which continues until June 1 and includes a free Big Family Weekend this weekend. See the full program here.

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