By Danielle Farrow
The Weaver, from Brazilian Caixa do Elefante Puppet Theatre, is a wordless and fascinating mix of concentrated physicality, gentle detail, intense puppetry, skilled illusionism and visual storytelling, with projections that sometimes give detail of facial expression that would otherwise be lost, and a soundtrack by composer Nico Nocolaiewsky.
There are moments of great beauty and of surprise, eliciting gasps from the audience as objects float, appear and disappear. The sheer discipline of the performances invites 4 stars, and it can come as a surprise at the end to realise it was a cast of only three who had woven this intriguing spell over their viewers. It is also sad to see this small special stage surrounded by heaps of blacks in a large conference space having few people there to watch.
The Weaver character, played with fine physical nuance and subtlety by one obviously highly skilled in movement, finds she can bring her creations to life using a special skein. This leads her to creating a perfect companion – played by an imposing puppet – but all does not go perfectly thereafter. The manipulation of objects as she goes about enjoying her creations is delightful, as is the weaver’s command of her body. Moving tabs, drapes and silhouettes add layers to the texture of the visuals, as well as aiding the illusions.
There are some details of the story that are not fully clear and there was no real explanation of why the weaver goes along with problems for what appears to be quite some time. There are also three black, veiled figures reminiscent of the three fates that occur in myths of various cultures. Fascinating as these are, and probably connected via the three Fates that spin, measure and cut the threads of human lives, their role in the story was not fully obvious and the likelihood is slim that someone unfamiliar with them would understand the connection. For this, the projections, sometimes just rather psychedelic designs, could have been put to clearer use.
A certain predictability to the story, as well, was not fully overcome by the presentation, for though it was intriguing to see the weaver as a puppet at one point, the actual events unfolding then were slightly unclear and the music, atmospheric and evocative as it is, had become just a little tedious by this time, along with the flow of pace. Things perked up for the expected end, though, and were again well-presented. Predictability is not necessarily a drawback for this kind of fable, but it felt as if a little something was missing in the inventiveness of the latter part of the piece.
The Weaver is intriguing in its illusions, impressive in the skills of its cast, particularly the lead, and drew audience members into discussion of how objects were manipulated. It is a fine example of performance skill and beautiful to watch, deserving of a larger audience.