Puppets convey deep emotions
Nelson Arts Festival
REVIEW: The Grimstones – Mortimer Revealed Suter Theatre, Wednesday 17. Review by Judith Ritchie
An audience of mixed ages sat enthralled in the Suter Theatre last night, while the story of a girl’s desire to find out the family secret was unravelled by way of marionette puppets and a magical set. Martha wants to know what really happened on the night of her father Mortimer’s death.
She can’t get any sense out of her Mother who mourns her husband’s loss daily, neither from Grandpa Grimstone. She has to know as that will also finally answer her question of whether her father loved her or not.
Creator, writer, set maker, and deaf puppeteer, Asphyxia uses sign language to tell the story while her assistant, August, narrates as both skilfully manipulate the puppets. They have two main sets which appear on stage looking like large books, then open like a suitcase to reveal a beautiful world of detail, with everything made to scale.
One is the grandfather’s Apothecary, complete with miniature bottles full of potions, scaled down books with gold leaf titles and a cauldron over a hearth. The other set is the crypt where Mortimer lies, complete with old-world looking roses, a tombstone and Mortimer’s velvet cape. As the story evolves we are treated to a couple of other props, a beautifully crafted harp, and delightful bed where Martha sleeps.
Dramatic music, thunder claps and mime all combine in perfect timing with the signing and narration, which is testament to the close working relationship between the two puppeteers, along with fantastic lighting which really sets the mood. What I particularly liked were the little nuances of emotion these ladies could communicate by ever so gently tugging on the puppet strings, thus conveying frustration, anger and total sadness, grief and also absolute joy.
It brought home how wonderful a simple puppet made from papier mache is and how it can become so real as to convey deep human emotions. It was also a reminder that children or any aged audience really, don’t need every detail to become totally enraptured in the story.
A lovely show, with a message for all age groups, conveyed by an inspiring Asphyxia, who couldn’t have done this show without her co-puppeteer, August.