3 Tales of Woe [FringeTIX]
Professor Forbes @ Ayers House Museum – Loft
8:00pm, Thu 14 Feb 2013
After fretting about with Dad in hospital – chatting with doctors and whatnot – everything was as organised as it could be; I grabbed a lift back into the city and checked the Fringe App. 3 Tales of Woe was in the right timeslot, easy to get to, and – more importantly – on The Shortlist.
Down to Ayers House I trundled, and up (for the first time) to The Loft, a tiny little room above the Museum. In one corner, a shadow box; fanning out around it were twenty seats, three-quarters of which were full – pleasing for such an early show in the Fringe! I took my seat in the second row, only to chastise myself when two of the tallest people I’ve ever seen (slight hyperbole, there) arrived just before the lights dropped and planted themselves in front of me. Annoying, but completely my fault.
3 Tales of Woe lives up to its name in presenting excerpts from The Raven, A Christmas Carol (perhaps more an indictment of capitalism than a tale of woe, but whatever), and Azathoth. Amber Forbes’ puppeteering is reasonably good, with a great deal of care being put into the little movements – the angle of the head, the actions of the hands. But the setup time for each change of scene – though necessary – feels too long, and whilst the variation throughout The Raven was welcome, the single scene of A Christmas Carol (in which Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost) is almost static, with just the jiggling of Marley’s chains to create variation. Azathoth, on the other hand, is an almost conceptual piece that seems to have a bold driving force behind it… but I imagine that idea would almost be better animated, than limited but the scope of shadow puppetry.
With one exception, most of the puppets (and their frames) are pretty coarse; and unfortunately for this production, Adelaide has been blessed in recent years to see the creations of Mr. Bunk‘s shadow puppetry… and despite their junkyard origins, Bunk manages to imbue his performances with a charm and polish that wins the audience over. 3 Tales of Woe is sadly bereft of charm – only the male puppet used to spin in a mental maelstrom has any real character – and polish is sorely lacking; the readings of the three pieces were all quite flat and inexpressive, with A Christmas Carol sounding dull almost to the point of disinterest.
And that’s perhaps the biggest problem with this production; if the narrator of the works doesn’t sound interested, why should we – as the audience – care? Perhaps the idea was to create a sense of cold distance with the readings, to drench them with a detached sense of dread; but it didn’t work for me, and instead I felt like I was being forcibly held at arm’s length… less woeful than unengaged.