REVIEW – Creation & Play, manipulate, Traverse Theatre

*****

Creation & Play gives the chance for three leading Scottish puppeteers to be paired with a trio of theatre directors: and given free reign to create whatever form of visual theatre they wished. With the emphasis very much on the ‘play’ aspect, the pieces give an opportunity for their creators to experiment in a low-risk environment, allowing them to flex their creative muscles in a sandbox environment – quite literally in the case of one of the performances.

Pac A Mac by Shona Reppe and the Lyceum’s Mark Thomson is the most avant-garde of the slices of playfulness on offer, with a surreal mood-piece featuring Reppe as a bewildered balloon modeller haunted by a disembodied voice in a cardboard box. Like a lost scene from Eraserhead, Reppe danced amidst the balloon animals, trying in vain to ignore the sense of foreboding and claustrophobia which closes in around her.

A visually interesting piece with Reppe’s performance emphasising the sense of the absurd, the theme is a little too sleight to make it anything other than a diverting performance as fragile as one of the balloon figures she pops beneath her shoes.

Easter Island: It’s A Rapanui by Ailie Cohen and Communicado Artistic Director Gerry Mulgrew is at the other extreme of the spectrum, being a humourous spoof scientific presentation about the mysteries of the giant stone heads on the tiny island. Cohen and fellow Puppet State Theatre Company collaborator Rick Conte have fun mugging their way through proceedings, aided and abetted by some effective shadow and small-figure puppetry.

It’s a likeable and light-hearted sketch: though whether it develops into something larger and more long-lasting remains to be seen.

A showing of Anna Ginsburg’s stop-motion animation video to Bombay Bicycle Club’s How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep? follows: a delightful and appropriately dream-like film with echoes of Le Petit Prince, well suited to the band’s indie folk style.

Grit by Tortoise In A Nutshell and Citizen Theatre’s Dominic Hill is the most traditional of the performances this evening, as the puppeteers bring a small, vulnerable male figure to life on a sand-strewn table.

His short journey is a rite of passage from innocent wonder to the misplaced bravado and futility of conflict, and Tortoise’s puppeteers succeed in portraying the tale with pathos and emotion, particularly in the poignant opening and closing scenes which frame the piece.

Creation & Play is an encapsulation of everything the manipulate Festival sets out to achieve: bold experimentation in an environment where freedom of expression can flourish. And whilst the pieces on show tonight are variable, they are united by those common goals, showing what creativity and playfulness can produce when given space to breathe.

Creation & Play – part of manipulate’s Snapshots – played at The Traverse Theatre on Feb 3 2012

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