Sunday 18 January 2009

Fish Clay Perspex - Shunt Vaults (LIMF)

[Written for]

Faulty Optic’s new show Fish Clay Perspex turns out to be a triptych and its title to be a succinct captioning of each discrete segment. Thus in Fish, we see a lone puppet man standing on a beach, collecting pebbles, and then being surprised to discover that a large fish has suddenly attached itself to the top of his head.

Clay sees a strange, similar looking puppet chap sculpting a curious shape from clay, before experiencing either a visitation or an out of body experience; shaping the clay into a surprisingly proficient likeness of a face, and then returning to his/her(?) body and hacking the face up with real violence.

Perspex, lastly, tells the story of two odd, smaller, white puppets that live behind a giant Perspex screen, on which things get drawn with wipeable markers with which they can then interact as if they were 3D projections into their world. Thus one puppet can draw some stairs onto the screen, for example, and then proceed to walk up them.

The three sections are linked by a series of – I guess – puppet dance sequences in which a cloud of cotton wool delivers three pin-footed, armless figures to a small polystyrene stage on which they gyrate and pirouette.

Does it add up to anything? Your guess is quite possibly as good as mine. There’s no overt attempt at a through-line, although the cloud of cotton wool seems to loom large in each of the sections heralding their arrival and departure like a big woolly omen. There are common themes of human struggle against nature, the elements, chance, and its own nature, the subconscious and self-doubt – the fish of the first section could as easily be a representation of the puppet beachcomber’s personal issues as it could be an actual fish.

It is the final section, Perspex, which most imaginatively draws these threads together and offers a bleak resolution in which the final puppet standing is taken by the omen-cotton-wool-cloud leaving only an outline drawn on the glass, before the three armless fates perform their final dance before the lights go out. At eighty minutes, the piece could cut down on some of the more tiresome repetition of the first sequence, but generally speaking it’s an engaging and diverting enough way to spend the time.

More CultureWars London International Mime Festival coverage can be found over on Matt Trueman's blog, as well as at CultureWars itself.

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