Wunderkammer (Cabinet of Curiosities) by Figurentheater Tübingen is a beautiful collection of vignettes that introduces audiences to an enchanting troupe of strange, curious creatures from another time and place. Their puppets are stringed – offering the fluid, subtle and undulating movement that this mechanism allows. These highly accomplished three puppeteers bought tremendous precision and emotion to their performances, sometimes amazing audiences with technically risky skits (at one point, a small puppet is shuttled between puppeteers on a precarious network of its strings), yet always endearing the audience with those small yet significant gestures that transform puppets into shy, melancholic or vicious creatures before our eyes.
Interaction between puppet and puppeteers was well considered and varied. Creatures responded to their masters with a gentle stroke or playful nip. New dimensions were also added through integrating puppets with puppeteers, forming new bodies and characters. The puppeteers’ costumes, combined with subtle lighting, allowed a seamless foregrounding and backgrounding of the performers, as the sequence required. Everything morphed and slipped away in a pleasing, dreamlike-fashion.
Only one sequence jarred for me. A moment where the prevailing ‘historical/magical’ aesthetic was replaced with a more modern feel and two puppets who seemingly begged to integrate deeply, simply flirted with one another. This lacked any new interest or development upon the charming techniques and characterisation that the performance had held so well prior to. However, this did not mar what was an enchanting and suitably curious performance overall.
Wunderkammer can be seen again this evening at 8pm at the Tobacco Factory Theatre. For more information, see the Bristol Festival of Puppetry website.