Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Popup books and puppets - Redmoon Theater's Hunchback

Ma femme and I were lucky enough to see Hunchback in Chicago on Saturday, the Redmoon Theater production of Notre Dame de Paris. Redmoon is known for creating spectacles, often wordless or nearly so, with lots of odd homemade devices and off-kilter scaffoldings. The company creates amazing images, but I have found that their storytelling does not always amount to much.

The adaptation of Hugo took care of that problem. The story could hardly be stronger, and the acrobatics, the puppets, the masks, and the pop-up books were all used to tell the story, not replace it. I was most impressed when, after a half hour or so of nearly wordless action, the Author shows up on stage to deliver a lecture on medieval Paris architecture. This is actually right out of the book!*

Whoever had the first had the idea to put a giant pop-up book on stage, and then use it as a mini-stage for marionettes, was some sort of genius. A charming, intimate effect. After the performance, the audience is invited onstage, and can play around with the puppets themselves.

If you find yourself in Chicago before January 20, try to see this show.

* Anyone bogged down in Tolstoy's historical lectures in War and Peace can shift some of the blame to the architecture chapter of Notre Dame de Paris.

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