Well-per­formed pup­pet show moves at a tedious pace

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ali­son Mayes

MAN­I­TOBA Theatre for Young Peo­ple of­ten demon­strates with its pro­gram­ming that a show can be very sim­ple and gen­tly paced, yet cap­ti­vate both chil­dren and adults.

The House at Pooh Corner was a beau­ti­ful ex­am­ple this sea­son.

The dreamy, im­age-based pup­pet play The Star Keeper, how­ever, is so slow-mov­ing and de­void of an en­gag­ing story that it soon be­comes tedious. The word­less fan­tasy, mar­keted to ages five to 12, has public per­for­mances to­day and Sun­day, as well as April 20-22.

It stretched into a very long hour for an el­e­men­tary-school au­di­ence on Thurs­day.

The im­pec­ca­bly per­formed show by Mon­treal’s Théâtre de l’oeil has toured the world since 1997 and won awards. But an ex­tremely rest­less au­di­ence in which you can hear adults end­lessly shush­ing (when they’re not peer­ing at their watches or phones) and kids say­ing, “Is it lunchtime?” and “Is this gonna be over?” tells the tale.

Whole groups of kids and chap­er­ones kept get­ting up and head­ing to the wash­room in mid­show. That doesn’t hap­pen when stu­dents re­ally want to see what hap­pens next.

This is the same com­pany that brought us the bizarre, less-than-crowd-pleas­ing pup­pet play Holy Cow! in 2010. As in that pro­duc­tion, the de­sign of the pup­pets and sets is un­de­ni­ably clever. Four pup­peteers wear black hoods and cloth­ing so they’re al­most` un­seen.

They op­er­ate a wildly imag­i­na­tive, sur­real ar­ray of mar­i­onettes and rod pup­pets. An enor­mous hu­man fig­ure with a belly that opens as a stage for smaller pup­pets, and a mer­maid with sea­weed hair that seems to float are es­pe­cially daz­zling. But the black-box pup­pet theatre is set back on the stage, so the de­tails of smaller pup­pets, such as a de­mand­ing baby, can be hard to dis­cern. Man­i­toba Theatre for Young Peo­ple To April 22 Tick­ets $14.50 at 942-8898

out of five

The main char­ac­ter is a muddy-coloured worm with the face of a sweet clown. He res­cues a fallen star (a sil­ver ball) and stows it in his bas­ket. Af­ter var­i­ous whim­si­cal, ran­dom-feel­ing episodes ac­com­pa­nied by charm­ing mu­sic, such as one in which a uni­cy­clist rides on a high wire, ris­ing “water” fills the space.

Now fish play with the star un­til one swal­lows it, a sea­horse finds it, an oc­to­pus lyri­cally bounces it from ten­ta­cle to ten­ta­cle, and so on, un­til the worm suc­ceeds in restor­ing it to the heav­ens.

The press kit tells us we’re “im­mersed in the mag­i­cal uni­verse of chil­dren’s dreams” but the semi-euro­pean, retro vis­ual style is from at least 60 years ago, so we’re not im­mersed in any child’s dream of to­day.

There are, for in­stance, strange float­ing fig­ures in long white gowns that I would have as­sumed were ghosts, if kids around me who had been prepped by their teach­ers hadn’t an­nounced, “Those are the sleep­walk­ers.”

Since The Star Keeper’s cen­tral im­pact comes from vis­ual sur­prise and won­der, it seems to de­feat the pur­pose to tell chil­dren ahead of time what they’re go­ing to see.

If this self-con­sciously pre­cious and arty dream can’t make a con­nec­tion with au­di­ences as it un­folds, maybe too much at­ten­tion has gone into the wiz­ardry of the pup­petry, and not enough into giv­ing the tale some earth­bound co­her­ence, pac­ing and heart.

The Star Keeper pup­pet show’s main char­ac­ter is a worm.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.