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Puppet show explores the journey from grief to happiness


A child’s journey from grief to happiness will be explored in a puppet show full of music and mayhem.


Aya and the Butterfly, by Wellington theatre company Birdlife Productions, is adapted from a picture book of the same name, written by Dr Maysoon Salama for her granddaughter Aya.


Salama’s son was killed in the attack on Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque, and her husband badly injured.


Producer and creative director Bridget Sanders picked up Salama’s book at a kindergarten.


“The imagery jumped out at me,” she said. “The idea of metamorphosis, and the theme of time passing and grief healing: it’s a lovely, simple story.”


It’s the first time Sanders and her husband and creative partner Roger have adapted someone else’s story, and they worked closely with Salama to ensure their production was sensitive to the author’s original story.

Salama was excited about her work taking on a different form, and reaching more people, Sanders said. While the first show will take place in Nelson, the second will be in Christchurch, where Salama will see it for the first time.


The timing was poignant: the show’s two performances will take place against the backdrop of the ongoing coronial inquest into the murder of 51 worshippers at Al Noor and the Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15, 2019.


“Maysoon said, please come and bring some joy to the community at a difficult time,” Bridget said.


While the show springs from a tale of grief, it is an uplifting work, the couple agreed.


“Essentially, it’s about a little girl experiencing grief, about joy and healing,” Bridget said. “It won’t be sad, it'll be a lot of fun, with giant caterpillars causing mayhem, and music.”


Roger said that while we try to shield children from grief, it’s a subject they explore freely on their own.


“When a family member dies ... it’s talked about at school,” he said. “It’s all part of life. We’re not shying away from it, but we are focusing on what else goes on in life around you.”


Credit: Stuff, Amy Ridout14:48, Nov 06 2023

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