String Theatre Marionettists, a London-based troupe, staged their puppet show, The Red Balloon, in Bangalore recently. The marionettist duo, Stan Middleton – a 3rd generation marionette, and Soledad Zarate, a marionette operator with Movingstage for the last four years, visited Bangalore as part of their All India tour. The show was organized by Yours Truly theatre of Bhagwaan Dhundoo and The Common Man fame.
Back home in London, these shows are generally staged in a tourist boat, with children seated at the center and adults at both ends of each row. Yours Truly theatre replicated this at ADA Rangamandira, the venue of the show, thus facilitating an unobstructed view to their primary audience. The seating arrangements were also made only on one half of the auditorium for the same purpose (see the seating plan below). They lost out on revenue because of this though :). I also liked the way their volunteers mingled with kids before the show and made the tough job of convincing kids to move away from their parents (to ensure optimal usage of limited number of seats) look easy.
The Red Balloon is the story of a unique bonding between a boy and a red balloon. The story packs several simple incidents to drive home this point and finally takes us to a very unconventional climax.
Running for 40 minutes, the tightly woven story backed by some excellent, specially commissioned background music and dexterous handling of the puppets kept the audience captivated throughout.
When the balloon played with the boy (yeah, you read it right. In one scene, the balloon played with the boy and not the other way round), kids giggled. When the balloon moved out of stage for a moment, kids seemed to help the boy find it and when it returned the smiles were back on their faces. When a bird came on stage, I kept my fingers crossed on whether it would pierce the balloon. When the boy’s classmates hatched a plan to steal the balloon, we were anxious to see if it worked
Among many such acts, my favorites are:
- Boy walking on clothesline
- Every movement of the bird
- Sweeper’s acrobatics, that swirling act in particular
Considering the number of strings attached to each character (sometimes I could see at least four strings) to get the movements right, the number of characters on stage (again, four characters on one occasion), and the complexity of the acts, it was surprising that there were only two young marionettes behind the scenes. Hats off to them for coming up with such a perfect act!
You can know more about them at http://stringtheatre.blog.com. It also has couple of video clips that will encourage you to watch out for their next show.
PS: Here is the short movie that inspired this puppet act – the French movie by the same name in French: Le Ballon Rouge.