The Manipulate Festival aims to highlight the many different styles and techniques practitioners are blending together to create pieces that incorporate puppetry, objects, digital technology, physical theatre, and dance. In a recent interview Artistic Director Simon Hart stated that he endeavours to “create a festival programme that it is difficult to be non-committal about, be that enthusiasm for a piece or strong dislike.”
Well, non-committal is definitely not the outcome after 50 minutes of Czech company Wariot Ideal’s depiction of two Antarctic explorers struggling through sub-zero wilderness as they lose their way both physically and mentally as time, and luck, runs out.
This piece of physical theatre relies on audio and lighting techniques as the performers efficiently create a series of montages illustrating the courage of two men navigating a desolate landscape in brutal cold as they forge an alliance with one another and hallucinate heroic returns home. Their plight is interspersed with tableaux scenes of the various animals who share the inhospitable habitat.
Sporting a white, fluffy hat, one actor tries to induce our soppiness by illustrating a baby penguin but, with the majority of animal scenes, be they ferocious fiends on the hunt or isolated weaklings calling out for companions, there seemed little merit beyond executing good animal impressions, and called back memories of drama school learning techniques.
The aim of the piece stipulated that it wanted to target desperation and loneliness and bring it to the fore, but rather than resonate the vain hopelessness, the shifts in focus to the animal world hampers the ability to truly be drawn into the plight of the men, and while this piece received a gratifying applause, there were many loud exhalations and frenzied debate... so Hart will be happy.
Performance: 1 Feb, 2012.