24 November 2005

Report on Silkeborg Festival, Denmark

Finally, I've landed in Israel and catching up on the writing I've been wanting to do for so long. So here's that short report I promised to write on the recent Danish Festival of Wonder in Silkeborg. That's the Israeli company's Stumble Onto in the photo.

In Tranter’s dramatic one-man performance, Frankenstein, which officially opened the Festival of Wonder in Silkeborg, Denmark on 10 November, Tranter combines the strength of his acting and puppetry talents to portray the story of Mary Shelley through the eyes of some strange twisted characters, each competing for their place in the limelight. The deranged scientist Herr Frankenstein, is obsessed by his two creations, his young daughter and his monster, both whom he admits to experimenting upon. Tranter’s characters reflect a world of deranged evil contrasted only by the innocence of Frankenstein’s abused and imprisoned daughter, who informs him that she has fallen pregnant. When questioned as to whom the father is, she alludes to the puppeteer manipulating her!

Frankenstein admits to the commissar that in his quest for beauty and truth, he may have done things that narrow-mined people might not understand. But a man’s got to do, “what a man’s got to do!” retorts the evil commissar. The production combines Tranter’s one-man puppetry performance with two live musicians, on piano and marimba, as well as a full choir to assist in the final chorus ending this dramatic theatre piece.

To our delight many international groups graced the festival with their talent. ‘Stumble Onto’ is a production by the Daedalus and the Train Theatre from Israel. ‘The Laboratory of Human Curiosity’ reveals the magical and imaginative plots of a few human inventions, created purely by accident. At the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, fire is discovered. Then a glass, accidentally broken, is used to improve an old man’s sight and a hot-air balloon is used to get him airborne. Stumble onto is referred to as a dialogue between theatre and science, abstract and concrete form, which combine puppet shadows, objects and actors.
In Dorthe’s Heart, a Danish multi-media production for young children, two actors portray the uneasy relationship of finding first love. Using computer animation projected directly onto Dorthe’s body, we see her emotions, like the butterflies in her stomach, as she reacts to the passes of the boy down the road. Although visually interesting, a much wordy Danish dialogue made it difficult to understand! This multi-media theatre seems to be the new ‘thing’ in Europe, combining theatre, puppetry and image projection.

For me the highlight of the festival was discovering a young Danish puppeteer Sofie Krog. Her production of Diva 2 gave me fresh inspiration. Behind the heavy velvet curtains, we discover the talented singing ‘Diva’. Inside the theatre, we find the mad wheelchair-bound scientist, whose greatest ambition is to create a new body for his deformed self. The set consists of a multi-layered glove puppet stage, on wheels, which turns to reveal many smaller hidden stages on differing levels. The beauty of the show, combined with the simplicity of characters create a powerful visual treat. The scientist’s fear-ridden rabbit-assistant does all he can to locate the ingredients required to create the magical potent to make his transformation possible. But the plot in fact never turns out quite as expected, although the rabbit does find a mate in the process!

The Silkeborg Festival revealed some interesting new initiatives, especially in the Danish puppetry scene, which seems to be coming into its own with many new small companies producing work. Although these were mostly geared to a younger audience, there is still room for international collaboration and exposure, to combine talents and cultures to create something even more inspiring in Denmark.