"Krafff", staged by La Compagnie du Théâtre Romette ( a collaboration between an artistic director, Johanny Bert and a choreographer Yan Raballand) cannot be called a "play" in the usual sense of the term. There are a team of five "actors"who, on stage, create a life-sized mannikin out of lengths of craft paper and a few rubber bands. Four of them ,(whom I must designate as puppeteers, though they claim not to be) then bring the marionette to life, and it interacts, for a riveting 35 minutes, with the fifth member, who is a dancer and acrobat, with all the grace and agility of a ballet dancer.
The four people who manage the marionette are: Julien Geskof, Maia Le Fourn, Christopher Noel and Isabelle Monier Esquis.
The show was presented by Le Fracas, Centre Dramatique National Montluçon, in collaboration with the Embassy of France, Avantha and Ranga Shankara, at Alliance Francaise.
The piece has no language; it appeals alike to children and adults. And indeed, the audience at Ranga Shankara, on the 6th of October, 2012, were riveted, and often gasped in sheer awe at, first, the creation of the puppet, and then the pas de deux between the dancer and the marionette.
We appreciated the show on several levels. First of all, was the incredible amount of practice that must have gone into the staging. To have four people moving a puppet in perfect synchronization with a dancer across the stage….must be very difficult indeed, and perhaps because the group has already staged 230 shows, the synchronization was impeccable. I was, every moment, tense about the four people tripping over themselves or not being able to move about the stage….that fear never materialized, as the marionette jumped, ran, walked, sat, floated and flew (the 35 minutes of the show also flew past!)
On another level was the stated inspiration from fthe text "The puppet and its theatre" of the German author Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811), where the author questions philosophically: between the human body or that of the puppet , whose is more graceful?
The original music score by a string and percussion trio (who, alas, were not named) added immensely to this exploration. Perhaps it was taped, but nevertheless, I would have liked to have known the names of the musicians.
A special word for the lighting. It played a crucial part in bringing the show to life; at times, it hid the four players who were manouvering the puppet, and made an independent, live entity of it; at others, it allowed the audience to see the superb puppet-craft of the four. It highlighted the dancer’s moves, and showcased the interaction, the competition, and the fusion of marionette and dancer. At the end, the cast pointed to the back of the auditorium, but alas, we were not able to see the talented person who handled the lighting at all, much less know the name.
We cheered the production to the echo at the end of 35 minutes, and then there was an audience-performers interaction. Alas, the French language being what it is, I could not understand the names of the performers at all, much less spell them properly here. It would definitely have been helpful to have a brochure with this information.
The interaction, in my opinion, was not very well-handled at all. Though it was supposed to be an interaction with the audience, most of the latter’s questions went unheeded, and the performers, speaking in French (there was a translator) kept on talking, and only about half the audience’s enquiries were even heard. One little girl kept putting up her hand, and finally sat down, very disappointed. Inane questions like "Why was this only 35 minutes?" (Any of us could see how difficult it would be to continue the performance longer!) were heard, while some queries were not. However, this did not detract from the wonderful impact of the show.
How I wish such shows would be staged more than once at a given auditorium! Though it was the Bangalore bandh day, the house was sold out, and many people returned disappointed that they could not watch.
But I must thank Alliance Francaise and Ranga Shankara for bringing such new initiatives in puppet theatre to us…it was a memorable evening of an excellent performance.
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