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June 07, 2011

Ouroboros at the Baxter Theatre: Puppetry in motion

Puppets

Photo courtesy Diva PR

The Handspring Puppet Company’s latest production, Ouroboros, is a beautiful story of love won and lost over a lifetime.

Running at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch until June 11, this moving tale demands constant attention and emotional investment, for which, I assure you, you will be richly reimbursed.

Quite simply, this is the tale of two people in love – Nokobinisa, a dancer and Andre, a poet – and the happiness, turmoil and inevitable end that such romantic liaisons involve. That it is told through a cast of magnificently designed puppets is what sets this production apart.

Handspring Puppets have been around for 30 years and recently won an award for their outstanding work on the highly acclaimed production War Horse. Their talent is complemented by master puppeteers Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler, whose skill once again comes to the fore in Ouroboros.

As we follow the lead characters from their innocent meeting as children to their reintroduction and sensual entanglement as adults, and on to bitter-sweet goodbyes as elderly sweethearts, the audience is made to keenly feel their pendulum of emotions without the need for verbal expression.

Rather, it is the actors themselves (including Jason Potgieter, Cindy Mkaza, Gabriel Marchand, Tali Cervati, Beren Belknap and 2007 Fleur du Cap Best Actress winner, Chuma Sopotela) who manipulate the puppets’ movements and whose faces express their characters’ emotions so vividly without intruding on the performance. Added to this melting pot of emotion is the beautiful, original music of legendary composer Neo Muyanga.

With the masterfully created puppets and their disturbingly realistic features, one sees, rather than feels, the loss of breath, stomach churning emotions and fluttering hearts associated with the heady feeling of falling in love … and it is beautiful. Even a rather delicate love scene between the puppets is handled with decorum and sensitivity, which is quite a feat for four actors manipulating puppets for an audience of 500!

In the capable hands of director Janni Younge, this tale of love is told in a most unusual and refreshing way which makes it linger in the mind long after the curtain has fallen. Definitely worth an evening out!

Ouroboros runs at the Baxter Theatre until June 11 and tickets are available at Computicket.

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