Monday, July 09, 2007

Manchester International Festival: Dead Wedding

I finally got myself down to another MIF event this weekend - I saw Dead Wedding at the Library Theatre. And like a good blogger here's my report:

Faulty Optic do just the kind of ramshackle, macabre adult puppetry and animation I love. Sort of Tim Burton-esque, but more arty. And the description of Dead Wedding really appealed to me - it's an adaptation of the Orpheus myth featuring a score composed by electronica maven Mira Calyx, with help from the musicians of Opera North (live strings and recorded experimental vocals).

We showed up on Saturday night, wedged ourselves into the theatre's tiny seats, and from the first minute I was pleasantly confused. The spectacle Faulty Optic put on was incredibly entertaining and inventive - they used every part of the stage and employed about 73 different kinds of puppetry and animation, from live manipulation of the puppets by black-clad puppeters (works better than it sounds), to shadow play, to puppets seamlessly interacting with film projected on a scrim. You had to wonder at it.

The problem was a bit too much wondering about the action unfolding on stage. As a former classics student who's really into mythology, I'm probably more familiar than most people with the story of Orpheus and Euridice, but I kept getting confused about where we were in the story and what was happening. The way it was staged was too abstract, and frankly lost me at times. And this aspect of the show completely ruined it for my companion (who wasn't keen on the music either.) The music was quite modern and interesting, at times even beautiful, with the strings playing off against Calyx's multilayered and sampled soundscapes. But the whole thing was more of a bewildering curiosity than a great night of entertainment.

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