This is our third year attending the festival. It’s all the things we love to see on stage, with plot and drama created by movement, puppets, mime. It’s a festival, so some are great, some good and some, well, just toads.
There was one spectacular performance: Anatomy of Fear by Teatteri Metamorfoosi from Finland. It’s one actor relating his daily fears, mostly centered around work, where either he is, or is made to feel, inadequate by his manager. The fear is represented by a slightly larger than life puppet – a doppelganger, manipulated by two superb puppeteers. This is not done with strings; the puppet is the main character on the stage, brought to life by the puppeteers holding and working the puppet, mostly from behind, so it appears to have human movement. Since the puppeteers are in total black (not even eyes showing) you soon forget their presence.
Misiposa Nocturna: A Puppet Triptych by Portmanteau of Chicago – a wonderful local puppet company. This time the puppets are about two feet tall, rendered in beautiful detail and manipulated by four puppeteers, who also manipulate the scenery. Again, the puppeteers totally in black so you can lose yourself in the miniature staged creation, forgetting how it is wrought. We have now seen this group three years running and they deliver each time.
The Confetti Maker by Frank Wurzinger (Germany) – a one man Blue Man Group, with paper instead of blue goo. Impossible to describe in a short paragraph, but if you are familiar with Blue Man, you get the picture - the one above is after the performance. We loved it. (Side note: Blue Man Productions was recently purchased by TPG, who own Cirque de Soliel, so watch for major expansion.)
Wojtec: The Happy Warrior by The Quarter Too Ensemble (UK) – this would have rated higher because the story is fascinating, but was lost in the frenetic presentation. It’s a true story of a Syrian brown bear adopted as a cub mascot by a Polish Armament Division stranded in the Middle East in WWII. When they are deployed to Italy and fight in the Battle of Monte Casino, the now full-grown bear accompanies them and serves as a carrier of ammunition to the troops throughout the attack.
Memory of Dust by Theatre de l’Ange Fou from France and Spring Green WI was an hour-long performance of modern dance/poetry performed by Steven Wasson and Corrine Soum. Not exactly our cup of tea, but would have benefitted from more poetry, which was lovely. The performers are easily in their 70’s with the stamina of young adults.
We also attended the evening of performances by locals learning the craft. We were underwhelmed and hope that next year’s crop is either better pre-judged or that the organizers open the stage to a broader geographic audience of new performers.
Overall, we enjoyed the festival and will always be there to be treated to unexpected greatness.