As Edinburgh begins 2017’s manipulate festival, expectation is high. What has been an incredibly diverse, challenging and invigorating festival in past years is set to continue in its success.
Whispers is not what you may expect when thinking of a puppet show. The companionship found in most puppetry, that between the puppet and the puppeteer, is stripped back. Nicole Mossoux performs alone, and the effect is isolating, and deeply personal. The idea behind the piece, that of many voices whispering to and within this woman, embodies itself in her performance. More than once it seems as if we are privy to the madness of a wild animal, at once beautiful and haunting.
The juxtaposition of wonder and fear in the performance are mesmerising, and Mossoux’s abstract choreography is given the space it needs to be appreciated. For much of the piece it is unclear what the intentions are with regards to the story; it is more concept than tale.
The rapid changes in soundtrack reflect the insanity and unpredictable quality of the woman herself as her experiences, both implicit and explicit in the performance, shape her knowledge and understanding of the world around her.
The combination of physical theatre, dance and puppetry is elegantly done. Visceral noise and apt soundscape underscore the whole performance, but silence is really what is powerful.
Mossoux creates an incredibly intimate relationship with the audience, and opens her anguish, pain, joy and solitude as she parades these feelings for the eyes she cannot see. It is those moments of silence in which the intimacy really grows and is felt. The sounds of drowning, tension cables, mud, earth, industry and weather all combine, making her seem at once inherently human and absurdly mechanical.
The skill with which Mossoux executes her performance is extraordinary. Everything is precise and well timed but gives off the air of being completely spontaneous and original to her. She herself was the puppet within her own show, and the eponymous whispers are her strings.
Manipulate festival 27th January – 5th February at the Traverse Theatre.