Anywhere was a tempting marvel, promising a puppet made mostly from ice, which slowly dissolves throughout the piece.
This was the debut UK performance of Anywhere as part of the London International Mime Festival 2019. L’Théâtre de L’Entrouvert was formed in 2009 by Elise Vigneron and aims to create a contemporary approach to the art of puppet theatre.
Anywhere is based on Henry Bauchau’s ‘Oedipus on the Road’. Oedipus begins the journey back from Earth as a blind beggar, seemingly rejected and alone. He is followed by his daughter Antigone. The more Oedipus walks the clearer the path becomes until he reaches the crossroads of the worlds. In the intimate space of The Pit at the Barbican, the performance starts with a lit block of ice. Upon which a hooded figure writes the first lines of the poem, accompanied by a crisp voiceover and discordant music. The black writing melts and drips down the block symbolising tears, creating a chilling effect instantly drawing you into the performance. The mix of sound, live raindrops, visuals and eerie lighting created a phenomenal sensual experience.
The ice puppet was then revealed at the back, covered in fabric to represent Oedipus the blind beggar. Using a white cane and some small rock obstacles you instantly believed in this fully fledged silent character, wanting to reach out to help. A huge crash, as the ice block crumbled to the ground, jolted the audience out of this state.
At this point Antigone, Vigneron, joined the puppet, removing the clothing and revealing the beautiful ice structure. Vigneron fully captivated the audience whilst carrying the puppet round the slate circle. The audience were on tenterhooks, feeling the pain of walking barefoot on the many precarious pieces of slate whilst understanding the deep connection between the two characters.
Throughout the piece this connection was fascinating; moving from tenderness to desperation and by the end loss and despair. This was beautifully matched by the slow melt of the puppet, with the white ice becoming clearer throughout the piece. As the puppet began to melt, so did the live rain fall and at the climax, where pieces of ice fell off the puppet, the stage was covered in mist as Oedipus ascended into the sky.
During the performance little attempt was made to hide the puppet strings. The choice to hoist the puppet from long strings, controlled side of stage by Hélène Barreau, was made a feature at many points. This highlighted the inevitability of the path Oedipus would lead and the struggle Antigone would have to let go. It was marvellous to observe the precise control and points where turmoil was represented through the twisting of these strings.
Whilst I loved this performance and marvelled at its uniqueness, I am not sure I would have fully understood the story without reading up on it first. Although, created by a theatre company which strives to provoke thought and asks the audience to question, perhaps this is no bad thing.