This Fringe festival has been a season of strange theatrical beasts. There were plenty of bright, entertaining child-oriented shows, but this low-key, polished and touching production which ran little over 30 minutes was a genuinely shared experience for the whole family.
It takes a mature confidence to conceive a whimsical production like La Rêve De Lucie. The show cemented the widespread belief that puppetry theatre can be an enriching and provocative experience, and its distinct multilayered approach meant that adults got as much out of it as the younger audience members.
The premise was quite simple: it’s just about bedtime but Lucie, a young girl armed with a fragrant imagination, struggles to fall asleep as a series of strange noises ensues. Fragmented with flickers of Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland woven into the story, La Rêve De Lucie is a purely visual production with no script. And the result is uncanny, enchanting, and laced with light wit.
A great deal of the success and pleasure of the play stems from the character of Lucie and a selection of crepuscular co-stars, manipulated by the exquisitely skilled duo of Florence Laroche and Elodie Phillipinni. Puppetry designer Annick Hamon’s delicate and detailed creations consist mainly of muted neutral colours, with a quirky Tim Burton-esque twist, which evoke a sense of finesse coupled with looming danger. As the characters become more clearly defined, they swing between humour, pathos, and wonder as adroitly as Eric Ksouri’s foreboding score, which is performed live. Most memorable, though, is the seamless intertwining of choreography, acting and puppetry. As the wolf tiptoes slowly up a flight of stairs only to be frightened by his equally fearful victim in one sequence, the result is a heady sensation of comical tumbling and almost-flying magnificence.
But it isn’t until a group of miniature rascals enters the scene, bouncing across the stage with reckless abandon, that the humour hits its peak. These minions rack up most of the laughs as they multiply with increasingly mischievous cackling as they scamper across the room. But none of the creations is more imaginative than the Jabberwocky-style dragon, which transfixes all attention on its sheer majestic detail. As he glides across the stage with Lucie on his back, the scene eloquently exudes with the wonder of stagecraft. And it is this comfortingly supernatural and progressive nature of the La Rêve De Lucie which ultimately transports the audience to a dreamy realm, despite the faint eeriness which permeates.
Cie Mille Et Une Façons (‘A Thousand and One Ways’), a theatre company visiting from Réunion island, succeeded in making the miniature spellbinding. By presenting a fusion of people and puppets, La Rêve De Lucie deftly outlined a fluid blend of real and make-believe in a child’s imagination.
Benn Van Der Westhuizen
La Rêve De Lucie ran as part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival from 4 to 8 October 2016 at the Cape Town City Hall.