Adelaide Festival Review: Foehn is a light and airy puppet theatre

It would be a mistake to describe Foehn as a puppet show. Not because that is wrong, but because it is much more than that. French performance artist Phia Ménard became a juggler, performance artist and director of the Compagnie Non Nova in the 1990’s. She describes the movement of air as being present at each and every instance of our lives. This performance, with few props, a series of fans and plastic bags is surreal in nature.

As the audience take their seats in the intimate AC Arts Main Theatre, the dark shrouded Silvano Nogueira is methodically taping together some pink pieces of plastic. The silence is palpable as the tape is ritualistically torn and cut. As jungle sounds fill the air, Nogueria stands and ritualistically turns on the fans surrounding the stage, one by one. The small bundle of pink plastic is placed in the centre of the stage. Slowly it begins to quiver and come to life. A plastic baby is born as Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun” fills the room with lightness. The animated shape dances and fills the room with happiness. It is hard to believe that we are simply looking at a taped up plastic bag, more-so a living breathing entity.

A second dancer is added, then a third and a fourth. Claude Debussy’s music makes the audience feel as though they are watching a 1950’s midday movie. Nogueira, as the puppet master, commands the coloured bags individually. Like trying to see the wires or strings behind a magic trick, it is hard to believe that this is simply air movement. He catches the four on his arm and they perch like a flock of obedient birds.

The next movement consists of Nogueira wearing a giant hat made from white plastic, which is then deconstructed to create a veritable cloud of tiny dancers. There is a feeling of the sorcerer’s apprentice as once again at the puppet master’s bidding they all finish their dance and obediently gather at his feet in a giant umbrella.

Next a giant golden serpent is unleashed and battles against our original pink hero. Everyone in the audience is on the edge of their seats, waiting for the final dénouement. It would appear that our hero is dead, perished. Yet hope reigns supreme and as any good fairy tale should have it, slowly he recovers.

Whilst the children in the audience certainly enjoyed the show, the happy faces among a wide range of ages proves that this performance is timeless and unique. This is truly a spectacular show that feels as though some magic is at play.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Foehn plays at the AC Arts Main Theatre until March 17

For more details check the Festival website

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