Lula Del Ray, Underbelly Med Quad, Review

Submitted by Jon Cross on Thu, 10 Aug '17 6.30pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Manual Cinema
Julia Miller, Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace (directors and designers), Brendan Hill (original text), Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman (original score and sound design)
Sarah Fornace (Lula), Julia Miller (Lula's mother), Lizi Breit, Sam Deutsch, Drew Dir (puppeteers), Maren Celest (vocals/sound effects), Michael Hilger (guitar,vocals), Eric Streichert (guitar, bass, percussion, vocals), Kyle Vegter, Alex Ellsworth (cello, vocals)

A young girl lives a lonely life in a caravan with her pre-occupied mother, whose job is to monitor the signals from a vast array of satellite dishes. While her mother scans the farthest depths of space, Lula dangles her feet from the rim of a satellite dish and dreams of building a rocket that will take her to the moon.

But first, perhaps, there is an adventure nearer to home, when Lula learns that the country band she idolises is appearing – for one night only – in the local town.

The consummate story-tellers of Manual Cinema take us on Lula’s runaway journey, blending shadow puppetry and live actors in silhouette in a re-invention of the silent movie, together with a wonderful soundtrack from brilliant onstage musicians.

In truth, the story does take a good while to get going, perhaps because there is a little too much scene-setting at the start, but once Lula is in the big city, the pace starts to pick up and the story-telling becomes utterly compelling and brilliantly executed. Danger, excitement, bewilderment and, ultimately, disappointment await the bold little explorer before she returns home and rediscovers her true destiny.

As with last year’s production of Ada/Ava, this is a performance on two levels; as the story unfolds above us, we get to see how it is all done at the same time. And it is all very retro and idiosyncratic, as the puppeteers move acetate slides and cut-outs over three old overhead projectors. The seamless transitions between the projected puppetry and the full-size actors is marvellous to behold. Most astonishing is the calm, methodical and flawless way the puppeteers marshal and deploy a highly complex sequence of materials. This is teamwork of the very highest order.

To some, the revealed techniques might smack a little of unnecessary showing-off or at least act as a distraction from the narrative, and there is always a risk with this kind of elaborate creativity that technique will end up triumphing over content.

Even so, Manual Cinema have again succeeded in producing a must-see show which is like nothing else on the Fringe.

5 - 28 August 28 (not 14) at 16.30