27 October 2017, ArtisTree, Hong Kong
This show was a product of an incredibly impressive amount of coordination. An array of video footage, two overhead projectors, three person live band, four puppeteers who also contributed their own shadows, and what must’ve been hundreds of set and puppet pieces.
This show is created by Manual Cinema, a Chicago-based arts collective. The plot? A girl who lives in a caravan dreams of going to the moon and a life beyond her own lonely existence in Middle America with her overworked mother. She escapes to the city, chases down a band she loves, only to realise that the life she dreamed of is an illusion. Although the plot wasn’t entirely captivating or logical, which most probably has to do with my tendency to drift off when things get a bit repetitive, the cinematography was stunning. And they flip the set up so that it’s as if you were watching the show from backstage.
The sets and scenes were meticulously etched out, the attention to detail (down to the posters on her bedroom wall) and the film work were beautifully crafted. Like the scene that starts with a close-up of her face, which then pans out as she moves out of her caravan and across the horizon, until she is at ant-like size… it imitated how a camera would zoom out, but remember that this is all the done manually by puppeteers changing backdrops and cut out silhouettes. I spent most of my time watching the crew and trying to figure out how they were pulling off the feat, and in awe of how they’ve memorised the million cues. Which is exactly what they wanted their audiences to be able to do… witness the complexity, admire the puppetry choreography.
An added touch was inviting the audience after the show to come up close and have a play on all their equipment. Although a part of me wanted to keep their artistry a bit of a mystery, retain a bit of the magic, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a chat with the artists about their work.
Really amazing that it was all just light and shadow. Light and shadow… and figments of our imagination.