Review: Black Hole Theatre Demonstrates the Intelligent Use of Puppetry in Contemporary Theatre Through BLIND

As part of the Festival of Light and Art, the brilliant collaboration between Black Hole Theatre, Duda Paiva Company and Theatre Works properly illuminates the heart and soul of its audience in the astounding performance of BLIND.

BLIND uses dance, puppetry and music to tell the tale of a boy struggling to cure his disabling eyesight and body ailments. We enter the story at the moment right before Paiva visits his latest doctor, a spirit healer. As the audience enters the theatre space, Paiva, in character, sits amongst the crowd and holds natural conversations with those seated around him.   As the lighting cue signals to the performer to begin, Paiva raises his voice to make light of the fact that he is conversing with those around him. He asks questions like what are their ailments, have they seen this doctor before and opens up about his previous experiences with other doctors. His neighbours, and the rest of the audience, begin to feel a deep empathy – this is someone who has clearly suffered so much from doctors poking and prodding and misleading to unsuccessful remedies. And then the tone shifts as Paiva steps deeper on stage and into the story – he sets up a playful tone by deepening his audience interaction, which opens us up to the playfulness of his storytelling.

The stage reveals a simple design of multiple pulley-system ropes suspended from the ceiling to the floor. Three white bodice skirts are sprawled on the stage and placed to look like lampshades. Paiva majestically moves around the stage exploring, picking at the ropes and before we notice, the ropes move with the performer to change the perspective of the stage. Music cues and lighting shifts add to these magical set changes, solidifying a clever transition from moment to moment.

 April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

And like most puppet shows, magic fills the air as the audience is introduced to each puppet character. Their reveal occurs within a blink of the eye – the spirit healer appears from one of the lampshades; three mythical puppet creatures appear from growths released from within the performer. Each puppet has its own spirit, exposed through its movement, facial expressions and vocal intonations. All of these traits are operated by the masterful puppeteer and performer.

It was a like savouring the icing on a cake when, after his final bow, Paiva invites his audience to explore the puppets on stage. Without hesitation, the eager audience accepts the invitation and the stage is flooded with bewildered and curious individuals. I quickly discovered the unique material used to create the puppets: padding foam. When asked by an audience member how he makes the puppets, Paiva laughs and says, “A blob of foam, scissors and a lot of patience.”

What any audience member can appreciate about BLIND is the fact that one does not have to understand the abstract storyline behind the performance in order to enjoy the show. BLIND is a show that gives its audience the gift of experiencing puppetry at its most intelligent form. And staying true to the company’s commitment, Black Hole Theatre once again proves that puppetry is powerful force used in contemporary theatre.

BLIND performs 8th – 19th March as part of the Festival of Light and Art at Theatre Works in St. Kilda.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.blackholetheatre.com.au.