Blue Man Group: Child's play for adults

Blue Man Group
May 24 – June 5: The Civic, Auckland; June 7 – June 19: St James Theatre, Wellington; June 21 – July 3: Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch
Blue Man Productions Ltd, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions Ltd

It’s a little difficult to describe exactly what happened to us at New Zealand’s premiere of the wildly popular Blue Man Group show. Even the word ‘show’ falls short of what was really an interactive, fluorescent rock-concert turned art exhibition slash science display.

There was the wonderful: brilliant-coloured paint which shot out from drums with every rhythmic hit, while strobe lights and digital art appeared before seemingly ordinary plumbing pipes constructed as a mega-conglomerate sound system.

Then there was the wacky: jelly projected on to a plastic poncho-clad audience, mashed banana which spewed out of performers’ chests and a brave volunteer doubled as a human paintbrush having being strung upside down, splattered with paint and comically pushed into a full-length canvas.

Rather than being passive observers, the people in the audience were every bit a part of the hilariously vibrant, colourful experience as the blue-faced, alien-like trio of friends: Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, who founded the group nearly 25 years ago in New York.

Their diverse backgrounds comprising music composition and performance, software development and business made up a successful collaboration called Blue Man (to evoke the word Human) which has been seen by millions worldwide.

The event is a sensory-rich one mixed in with technological as well as educative aspects with references to the human brain and its processing of colour and light – two aspects the show capitalised on. Among psychedelic patterns of swirling colours, the Blue Man Group wove in graphics of cones and rods – photoreceptors across the surface of the retina – explaining their importance for our perception of colour. Unsurprisingly then, since the group’s inception, the trio also went on to start a formal educational programme in 2006, the Blue School, located in New York City’s lower Manhattan. It is a school author and advisor on education Sir Ken Robinson describes as “the alternative to a lopsided education system.

If their idea both, in their shows as in their school programme, was to inspire creativity, they certainly did so using sound, colour, rhythm and texture as well as litres of paint, Toblerone chocolate and marshmallows to full entertaining effect.

At the show’s climax, when giant, glowing helium-filled balls descended from the ceiling among paper streamers, even well-dressed adults descended into a childlike madness in their attempts to hit a floating ball. The night was certainly child’s play for adults, though children too would not be disappointed.