This first show for Di Filippo Marionette features delightfully intricate traditional-styled puppets and two puppeteers full of whimsy and enthusiasm. Vibrant music, big smiles, chances for children to get up close to the fascinating characters and a constant change of performance styles.
The show opens with a simple puppet lying asleep on a pillow, which gradually wakes up as it is prompted, limb by limb. And once awake, it is so delighted that it starts to dance around the stage, right up into the laps of the children and their grown ups in the front row. Despite having no face, no clothing and having all of its joints out on jerking display, the puppet has everyone’s full attention. Having danced its way all around the stage, onto laps and into hearts, it is tired out and returns to its pillow to go back to sleep. The simple dance moves and jaunty walk is all controlled by a hand held contraption with nine strings. While each of the show’s puppet performers have differently made rigs, not a single string gets tangled in the whole display.
While the puppets are not introduced to us by name, costuming, music, props and actions are enough to bring each one to life. The tousle haired violinist is a bit abashed, hiding his face against puppeteer Remo Di Filippo’s leg, but seizing the chance to play away with the music. The control and concentration for each bow stroke to strike in time, but also for the puppet’s fingers to be moving along the neck of the instrument for pitch changes, is truly remarkable. The clever timing of the musician doing the splits with a string kept aside especially for this move, is also impressive. The graceful ballerina also does the splits, but gently, part of her elegant preparation for the dance. While her delicately detailed costume is delightful, the special crank in her rigging is fascinating on a different level, as she twirls to the beat, with not a care in the world. Another highlight is the Mohawk-styled punk electric guitarist, playing along with the radio. He has a particular taste in music, and even sings along as he plays and dances, his bright red mouth opening with the words. However, his radio is quite temperamental and keeps jumping between stations, leading him to despair, and then violence against his machine. Finally, he gives up and a rousing rendition from Figaro is his exit.
While the eyeless face of the clown figure disturbs some audience members, the magical flying abilities conjured by his floppy bow tie turning into a propeller lead to some beautiful aerobatics. The tap dancing duet between the puppeteer and a very cool Brat Pack inspired puppet, to the jaunty strains of “Mack the Knife”, brings smiles all around the tent. The closing routine with “Gino”, a shy elf-like creature who lives in his own special box, is quite beautiful, big curious eyes searching around the audience and the live singing of one of the performers bringing a further dimension to a touching exploration of shyness and reaching out.
Beautiful puppet creations, skilfully manipulated to a well-chosen soundtrack that includes the capable live vocals of Rhoda Lopez, Di Filippo Marionette’s Hanging By A Thread will engage both the young and the young at heart.
Di Filippo Marionette presents
Hanging By A Thread
Venue: Casa Mondo | The Pleasure Garden, Northbridge
Dates: 14 – 21 February 2016
Tickets: from $10
Part of Perth FringeWorld 2016