The Traverse Theatre has been host to the annual manipulate Festival for six of its seven year existence and Monday night saw it kicked off again in great style in the Traverse Bar.
Speeches from manipulate and Puppet Animation Scotland’s Artistic Director, Simon Hart, the Traverse Theatre Chief Executive, Linda Crooks and Creative Scotland’s Chief Executive, Janet Archer, along with a representative from the Point Hotel, Frederica Kennedy, opened the week long showcase of top class international puppetry and animation.
Second up in this exciting programme in the Edinburgh run was Don Herzfedt’s 62 minute long film It's Such a Beautiful Day. Some stylish Palm Court music, complete with crooner greets the audience as it fills Traverse Two that is set up as cinema for the evening.
Herzfedt’s film is divided in to three chapters - Everything Will Be OK, I am So Proud of You and It's Such a Beautiful Day - that meld easily to a complete entity with blurred timelines.
The main character is a stick figure called Bill, a simply drawn but complexly shown emblem of bewildered humanity. The child-like drawings are animated with the shaky effect reminiscent of Bob Godfrey’s brilliant Roobarb and Custard. Real film footage shown at speed gives an unreal quality that marries well with the deceptively naïve drawings.
What starts off as comic observation of human interaction soon enters a world of Cutleresque surrealism. As Bill’s world becomes weirder and weirder, eventually tipping in to nightmare, he experiences loss, illness and disintegration before finding the wonderment of life’s beauty in sharp relief. In other words, the joy of simply being alive.
The film is narrated in by Herzfedt in a calm, detached, matter-of-fact tone that is in stark contrast to the chaos on screen and is accompanied by classical music including Schuman and Wagner, adding suitable depth to Bill the stick man’s story.
This is a fearless piece of work about life, death and a lot of what goes on in between from a multi award winning, self -supporting artist that for all its ostensible simplicity is not for the faint hearted. As the character Bill says, “It smells of dust and moonlight’.
3 Feb, 9.15pm Traverse Theatre
5 Feb, 9pm Norwich Puppet Theatre