The first Yirramboi Festival collects a range of works by First Nations artists and companies, with some shows having blink-and-you’ll-miss-it seasons. One of these is physical theatre offering La Vie Dans Une Marionette (roughly, the life in the puppet) by New Zealand company White Face Crew. My advice: don’t blink!
La Vie Dans Une Marionette premiered in 2013 at Auckland Fringe Festival and has since toured to various NZ festivals. The company features performers from the Maori/Pakeha/Uvean NZ Nations – writer Tama Jarman, and his co-creators Justin Haiu and Jarod Rawiri.
I wondered if the company name would reflect an interest in parodying white officialdom, as in some Pram Factory productions of decades gone by. This show is not overtly political; performers in white face with red lips here follow the convention of French mime, such as as employed by Marcel Marceau’s enduring Bip The Clown character.
We begin in the apartment of one of these white-faced men, The Pianist. He doesn’t seem to get out much, or have adequate social skills, being noticeably uncomfortable about having a delivery man in his house. The delivery is a human-sized marionette to keep The Pianist company.
As we see the mime of pulling The Marionette’s strings, and The Marionette responding as if actually bound by them, the quality of skills demands your attention. Through a little magic, The Marionette learns to respond to music, giving rise to graceful dance routines, and opportunities for wordless, yet humorous exchanges with The Pianist.
We see the friendship between the pair grow, with the passing of time shown by our interactive Moon, also providing some goofy asides and physical humour. You know you have a real friend when they do something vital when it’s needed, and The Marionette shows his value by repaying The Pianist’s regard at a crucial time.
This section is why the show comes with a warning: “Some themes may require parental guidance. Contains reference to self-harm. Recommended 10+” So, the show may not be suitable for all kids, despite the appeal of the genre. Yet, this form allows the childlike qualities of the performers to disarm cynical adults.
Through this, we are able to engage with an uncomfortable matter in a more visceral way than we often would. The sort of way that might just lead to some people with busy lives phoning a friend they have lost touch with.
With La Vie Dans Une Marionette’s fluid movement, physical comedy, live music and pathos, it packs a lot into a mere 50 minutes. Often there’s a contagious joy about the performances in this wonderfully odd piece. The company seem to have a clear vision of the art they want to make, and their uncluttered realisation of this was very refreshing.
Saturday 13 May is your last chance to be amongst the too-small audiences for this little gem of a show. I can only hope that White Face Crew will share the magic more widely, with a return season for Melbourne Fringe.
La Vie Dans Une Marionnette
Meat Market, 5 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Friday 12 May 2017 – 8.30pm
Season continues to 13 May 2017
Information and Bookings: www.yirramboi.net.au
Image: La Vie Dans Une Marionette (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte