A taboo subject in our society, and why not? ‘Not being here’ one day is an unpleasant idea that some would rather not think about, much less openly discuss. Others are more keen on the subject, like Nathanial Tweak, host and curator of Famous Puppet Death Scenes.
Created by The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, Famous Puppet Death Scenes recreates death scenes from history’s greatest (fictional) puppet shows. Tweak, a puppet himself, has amassed this grand collection in hopes that the scenes reveal something to us about the nature of life and death.
One of the first things we learn is that death is random. One minute, we may find ourselves enjoying some fresh air, then the next we are crushed under the weight of a giant fist (The Feverish Heart by Nordo Frot – Act 1, Scene 3). Or, powerful gusts of winds blow us apart, limb by limb (The Forgotten Dish by Sterling Lowry; “The Winds of Fate”). Sometimes though, it’s just a matter of picking the wrong door (Das Bipsy Und Mumu Puppensiel by Freuliecher Friedrich – Episode 43 “Bipsy’s Mistake”).
Other times too, our poor decisions invite death; poor decisions like dressing up as a deer in the middle of the forest (The Ballad of Edward Grue by Samuel Groanswallow: Act 4, Scene 6).
But perhaps the evening’s most resonant lesson is that death simply happens.
Taking a pause from the absurd, The Last Whale by Grover Bellick features a giant whale’s eye that opens, then closes very slowly. That’s it. Even the mightiest creature on Earth cannot outrun death’s grip.
Lucille Arabesque by Agathon Finley is no different. An old woman rests on her deathbed, taking what are perhaps her last breaths. There are no moving last words. Only an unsettling silence, a confrontation with our fragile mortality.
And yet, despite everything, Tweak insists there is such a thing as The Perfect Death Scene. In the play’s final moments, we wonder whether or not Tweak himself learned anything in the process.
The Old Trouts are at their finest in this spectacular display of grisly humour and puppetry. The depth of dramatic styles and periods explored is quite remarkable. Not to mention the inventive staging that takes us across such a variety of fictional works, which each feel distinct in both voice and aesthetic.
And the audience is right there for every moment of it. Joy, shock, pity, you can hear it all in the theatre. The reactions from the audience almost lend a ‘musical’ quality to the production. That is the strength of the work by
the puppeteers (Nick Di Gaetano, Pityu Kenderes, Viktor Lukawski) who really make us feel for the ill-fated puppets.
Dark and funny at one moment, then haunting the next, Famous Puppet Death Scenes is a brilliant show that will stay with audiences long after its finale. A standing ovation truly earned.
Co-presented by Theatre Junction GRAND and The International Festival of Animated Objects, The Old Trout Puppet Workshop’s Famous Puppet Death Scenes runs at Theatre Junction GRAND, March 13 – 28, 2015.
For more information on the show and how to buy tickets, visit: http://www.theatrejunction.com/1415season/fpds/