In September, 2019, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Festival mondial des theatres de marionettes in Charleville-Mezieres, France. Here are some reviews.
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- Steve Capra
Intranauts comes from Green Ginger (UK) directed by Emma Williams. In this play, woman travels in a large, complex vehicle - a micro-vehicle - inside a man’s body, attending to maintenance. She has her own work load, but he can make requests.
We meet the gentleman in a smoking jacket at the opening, with “Hello”, as he addresses his computer screen, which is a scrim. He speaks an upper class dialect throughout. Then we meet the young lady in charge of his care, who speaks with decidedly lower class diction. She’s a whiz, though, and when an arm comes off she goes into a sort of inter-body space walk to care for it (the puppeteers are handling the vehicle and its appendages). On the way, she bumps into a blood cell and, I think, a virus, but she succeeds.
The central event in the piece is an unexpected malfunction of the vehicle that signals its host’s demise in a-certain-number-of minutes. We watch the electronic display count down as she punches in the code - 7432. He requests that she travel to his brain to see if she can improve his mood - “I feel sad” - and after trying to put it off, she complies. But can she can avert the catastrophe?
Intranauts is great fun, but it’s dated - reference Fantastic Voyage and 2001 - and the actors don’t make much of their roles. The real problem is dramaturgical: there’s no precipitant, no reason that the system should break down today. For this reason the play doesn’t mean anything, and it’s just - well - fun. - Steve Capra September 2019
Every second year for ten days in September the small Renaissance city of Charleville-Mezieres in northeastern France hosts Festival mondial des theatres de marionettes - The World Festival of Puppetry . You don’t know what it means to be festive until you’ve come to this event! The town is filled with people of all ages - many senior folks, and always sober - enjoying the cornucopia of puppetry events spread out before them. It’s terrific, with shows, internships for children, workshops for puppeteers, street performers - everything a festival needs! The 2019 event was the 20th biannual, and I was lucky enough to be there with my critic’s notebook. The opening event was Place des anges , a pageant presented in the beautiful old town square. Brightly lit acrobats - white angels - dropped white feathers on the crowd. Angelic indeed! It was marred only by the hyper-amplified base of techno-music or whatever it was. Aside from the scheduled performances, the streets of
The puppets in Bloop! , from director Pep Bou (Spain) are bubbles! The two characters blow thousands of them - some with smoke or something in them, some looking like suds, some large enough to envelope the actors, all beautifully lit. Our man stage left is referred to in the program as an “alchemist”; he may as well be a hippie - lots of hair, a beard. The gentleman right is a business type, bald, wearing a hat, often on the phone. They each have a small table, but otherwise the stage, with its black back wall, is bare. They vocalize but never speak. Our hippie friend intrudes on the businessman’s space with his annoying bubbles, but during the course of the play teaches him how to enjoy life - it’s not long before they’re both blowing pipes and waving wands. This unsubstantial premise is so well exploited that the play is absolutely delightful - we don’t stop enjoying it for a minute. The actors wordless expression of the characters evolving relationship relationship is
Leyly & Majnun , produced by Baku Marionette Theatre (Azerbiajan) is an exquisite marionette opera written by Uzeyir Hajibeyli, one of the great Azerbaijani composers, and directed by Tarlan Gorchu. It sources Western and Eastern musical traditions. Its story is based on a narrative poem written by Muhammad Fuzuli in the 16th century, itself based on a legend centuries older. The story echoes Romeo and Juliette , an ageless tale. The small marionettes are gorgeous, elaborately designed by Tengiz Khalvashi. The music, recorded by two musicians and singers, is lovely and varied, including even something like a march, but most notably graced by a haunting solo female voice, nearly wailing in, I assume, Azerbaijani. The seven puppeteers, in black, are part of the presentation. They sometimes move with slow deliberacy. To call this production a show is to trivialize it - it’s a ritual . The screens upstage are beautiful as well, and the play ends with a projection of cu