City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Beguiled, manipulate Festival, Traverse Theatre, Review

By Erin Roche - Posted on 12 February 2019

Show Details
Traverse Theatre
David Hall (soundtrack narrator), Bob Lockwood (sound & performer-musician), Nate Toon (soundtrack child narrator), Jim Bond (set design & construction), Liz Walker (writer, set design & construction, puppet making),
Liz Walker (performing puppeteer), Bob Lockwood (performing puppeteer)
Running time: 

Beguiled is a double-bill of two haunting and imaginative pieces by surreal visual theatre company, Invisible Thread.

Everyone loves a secret, but, in this macabre fairytale, we learn that curiosity will do more than kill the cat. Cautionary tales and fables are intriguing in and of themselves, beginning with their innocent ‘Once Upon a Times’ all the while sneaking within them true horrors. Catmother pushes from intriguing to fascinating, using puppetry, narration, audience engagement, and a live double bass score to create a world where “naughtiness” has some hairy consequences.

This forty-five-minute production is performed by two puppeteers- one is the creator and the other is an audience member, briefed just before the show on the hefty role she is now about to play. The recorded narration of the “Story” plays both the voices of the puppet children and the stage directions. With this there is the element of chance, laughter, spontaneity that comes with successful audience engagement; however, it also serves to show that love of makebelieve is still rooted inside us all. Abolishing any fourth wall, this production is true child’s play, weaving in and out of “pretend”.

The concept of part fable/ part theatrical experiment is inventive and utterly original, not least because of the retractable and mechanical dollhouse of sorts. Using boards, shadow, and a bicycle chain, the puppets move through their world...over the bridge, hopping the fence, etc. The gaunt mother puppet as severe as Burton character resides in her gloomy house, each board tearing away to create a new scene of a forest or a fairground. The live double bass score serves a purpose more than atmospheric, it brings alive the sounds of the house and the scratching of the Catmother’s claws, the bow and puppeteer moving in tandem, not a nuanced moment forgotten here by the creators from Invisible Thread.

Elements of magick within this twisted, darkly comic tale of the Catmother who comes when children are unspeakably “naughty” make this a consuming performance for lovers of works like Coraline or the The Brothers Grimm. Yes, Catmother is a children’s fairytale of sorts...Why tell children scary stories? As Neil Gaiman says, “The point of telling scary stories is innoculation...To take, and deal with, a little bit of the things that scare us.”

In this abstract/absurdist compilation of vignettes, we see a piece that ranges from silly to stoic. Clunky puppets with a constant dumbfounded expression engage in charmingly choreographed slapstick with wooden planks. Further down the rabbit hole, we see two smaller puppets, monk-esque in their flowing white gowns and resting behind the desk made out of these wooden planks. They call out raffle tickets numbers, and audience members come forward to collect their winnings, which remain unknown to those who were less fortunate in the draw. Unseemly eye-less doll heads now overcome the wooden planks, taking on a more sinister feel...the monologue read is cryptic; combined with the actions of the dolls it seems to nod to a sense of sadness in the fact that childlike wonder is most often eventually overtaken by greed and consumerism.

In twenty-five minutes, we see things like sand, wooden planks, figurines become rather extraordinary. But, as The Office's Pam Beesly reminds us, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” This double bill of table-top puppetry titled Beguiled had me totally bewitched.

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