Teatro Martita

Django Bar, December 1

Teatro 3
The Panda is underwhelmed by Matija Solce’s suicide threat.

The symbolism was as gentle as it was charming. In using bones as puppets Matija Solce was restoring flesh to them, and perhaps giving them a glimpse of reincarnation. The bones were real and apparently mostly cow-derived (skeletal forensic science not being my strong suit). The one fake was a human skull, our enthusiastic Customs officials having denied the real one a visa.

Tall, rake-thin and elfin-looking, Solce is a Slovenian puppeteer and musician whose Teatro Martita puppet theatre kicked off the international component of the two-week-long Camelot Gypsy Festival. His show is about the most portable piece of theatre going, requiring no more than a light or two and a table on which to place the small black coffin containing his collection of bones. So it was perfect for Camelot’s smaller Django Bar, where the audience could cluster around him like overgrown children.

Manipulated in quite rudimentary ways the bones magically became a giraffe or two kissing fish, with appropriate sound effects charging the air via a microphone stuffed down Solce’s shirt. An African elephant, for example, made the mistake of trumpeting so hard that it blew one of its own ears off.

His other companion was a panda glove puppet who lured us into that simultaneously whimsical and dark zone of wondering exactly who was whose puppeteer. The show began with the panda waking up Solce, and concluded with him demanding Solce remove his hand from the bear’s posterior. Modern occupational health and safety laws would probably support the panda.

Laura Targett provided an occasional soundtrack with violin and pretty a capella vocals, and at the end she duetted with Solce (after the panda had expunged him) on folk material, the puppeteer now proving a dab hand on accordion.

Earlier Umbrella Theatre’s Shani Moffat had collaborated with a fortune-teller puppet to bring us Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, but surely there should be more to theatre than just having a puppet recite an existing short story. Besides, Steven Berkoff’s unforgettable rendition remains a hard act for anyone to follow.