This is an entertaining program consisting of three short works, devised by and featuring five talented women. The development of these works has been supported by Terrapin Puppet Theatre’s Articulate program, a new initiative this year.
First up is Remnants, in which Kate Hill and Theresa O’Connor wake up covered in pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Except, according to the prerecorded narrator, they’re not jigsaw pieces, they’re memory receptors in a human brain. The performers spend time organising the pieces, sorting them, fitting them together and pulling them apart and generally having a good time. It’s an ingenious idea and well executed. Hill and O’Connor are likable performers, but I think they could go a little bigger with this, some of their gestures and facial expressions are easy to miss, even in a small space like the Backspace. It feels quite controlled and it would be great to see what would happen if they really let loose with it. My favourite moments in Remnants were the high energy ones, such as a very amusing fight sequence and Hill’s romantic interlude with a memory receptor. Hopefully this show will make further appearances and will continue to evolve.
Next up is Arabian Night Delights, featuring Kirsty Grierson, Mel King and Melinda Mills-Hope as a trio of veiled dancers. The opening sequence has a very silly punchline, reflecting a refreshingly offbeat approach to the subject matter. Then it’s on to puppetry, with the performers manipulating a tiny snake charmer. This sequence demonstrates the unique strength of puppetry, an audience transfixed by a couple of inanimate objects that somehow, through skill and imagination, become living beings. My only reservation is the music, which, while entirely appropriate, is a bit monotonous in a muzaky kind of way, dulling the drama at times. Perhaps some moments of silence would help.
Finally there’s The Tale of Two Cooks, featuring the same three performers as Arabian Night. This is a funny, original work that deserves to go far. Grierson and Mills-Hope play dueling chefs, with King hilarious as the monumentally egoed master of ceremonies. There’s plenty of macho posturing before the chefs get around to any actual cooking, making the joke all the funnier when it finally hits: they craft cute little animals out of fruit and vegetables. This is a play on the masculine world of haute cuisine, with the end result not a meal but a piece of delicate whimsy. It’s cleverly done, with such items as a watermelon, a croissant and an electric juicer (in a traumatic moment) put to unexpected use. Object theatre is an engaging form of performance and here it is enhanced by the strong characters that have been created as a backdrop, giving The Tale of Two Cooks conviction. It’s silliness, of course, but it’s seriously good silliness.
Terrapin Puppet Theatre’s Articulate program
New Puppetry Works By Tasmanian Artists
Venue: Backspace Theatre, Theatre Royal | 29 Campbell Street Hobart
Dates: Wednesday 5 to Friday 7 November at 8pm
Bookings: Terrapin Puppet Theatre 6223 6834