Published on December 29, 2007
Three puppet theatre productions in Israel recount their universal stories to an international audience
This thought-provoking show related the story of a lonely old man and his encounters with the three women who helped shape his life - his mother, his lover and, most intriguingly, the woman puppeteer herself. Resnick presented each phase in his life on a different miniature stage, and magically, the physical bond between the puppeteer and her puppet became a spiritual tie that had many of us believing we were watching real actors.
For example, the audience could hear the old man puppet sigh, so perfectly in harmony was Resnick's breathing with her puppet's body movements. And although we never saw him cry, the whole experience was so moving that at the end this reviewer was in tears, realising with some shame how errant he had been in overlooking the unconditional care and love of his own ageing parents.
Also noteworthy was the live music accompaniment by pianist Zohar Sharon who seamlessly merged his original music composition with the puppet performance. When the lonely old man puppet put his fingers on the small keys, the rhythm and the volume of Sharon's touches were so precise that the audience truly believed it was the puppet who was playing the piano. At other moments, his score added meaning and emotion to the heartrending story but without making it melodramatic.
The event moved on to Tel Aviv where at Tzavta's Theatre 2, puppet master Ofer Amran, a graduate of Nissan Nativ Acting Studio where he currently teaches, created and performed "A Tale of a Lonely Man" with the help of an actor-cum-stage manager and an actress. Without a single spoken word, the one-hour play was able to deliver plenty of messages about contemporary life.
A lonely middle-aged man (Amran wearing a half-faced mask) living in a small city apartment created a life-size puppet of a woman to keep him company. In one scene, he even had intercourse - artistically staged with much discretion - with the puppet, from which union a baby puppet was born. He had a happy family, so to speak.
His perfect imaginary world was later interrupted with the appearance of a real woman, performed by Renana Raz, who bore a chilling resemblance to the puppet. The plot grew steadily more complicated and thought-provoking, with Oleg Rodovilski helping to move the story along on the small stage with its realistic furniture by adjusting the puppets' positions and movements, and bringing in props and new characters. With Amran's keen stage direction, though, the audience was rarely aware of Rodovilski's omnipresence, and this director/stage manager soon faded mystifyingly into the background.
As in "Overflow", the relationship between the manipulator and the manipulated, as well as that between happy imagination and harsh reality was brought to the fore. We were asked to reflect on whether we should resort to our inner thoughts when reality, or the relationship with others in our society, was beyond our control.
At the main auditorium of the Tmuna Theatre, another Tel Aviv haven for fringe theatre, the Galilee Multicultural Theatre's "Sofia's Drawings" showed how a simple story book filled with cardboard characters could effectively tell a holocaust story, with the aid of live video technology.
The fascinating play, intended for adults and youngsters, was based on the drawings created by 16-year-old Sofia Asscher-Pinkhof while she was hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. Puppeteer and actress Efrat Hadani is Sofia's daughter, and her retelling of this personal story was truly sincere and thoroughly touching.
Her collaborator Pablo Ariel pitched in with a deft direction and theatrical wizardry that made the still drawings of real-life characters and situations magically move. Though its few words in Hebrew were translated into English surtitles projected on the screen behind the two performers, the play communicated even more with a visual language that crossed cultural barriers.
It should be noted here that the technical requirements for these three productions are not complicated. Cast and crew are few, and obviously they can travel light. That means - and we keep our fingers crossed here — that these works can easily be staged to similar effect at Bangkok's intimate yet technically well-equipped venues like Makhampom Studio, Crescent Moon Space, and Patravadi Theatre's Studio 1. And as all these contemporary Israeli theatre artists speak English fluently, workshops can be held, thus allowing for intercultural collaborations to emerge.
The writer can be contacted at Pawit.M@chula.ac.th.