Last night, I went to see Manual Cinema’s Lula del Ray at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. I was so enchanted and intrigued by Manual Cinema’s shadow puppet show at the Studs Terkel Festival that I decided to check Manual Cinema’s upcoming shows. And I’m glad I did. They are doing at least two shows, one last night, and another one on May 30th.
Lula del Ray was incredible. It’s a full length shadow puppet show, whereas the Studs Terkel show was a series of short stories. Lula was completely wordless, but it’s narrated with sound effects and live musicians. It’s haunting story of a young girl coming of age. She lives with her mother in a mobile home at the foot of a field of satellite dishes. Lula wishes for anther world; she’s obsessed with the moon. Obsessions come and go from the moon to music stars. Eventually Lula runs away to the big city to see her idols.
The ability of these puppeteers is astonishing. They seamless create scenes by layering shadow puppets on top of colorful scenes. Lula wanders her world, from the rooms of her mobile home to the streets of the big city. They make her world come alive for the audience. In addition to moving and static puppets, Lula and her mother are also played by live people in silhouette. They actually have silhouette faces that they wear throughout the show to keep the actors consistent with the puppets. (It’s a mask where they have to hold it in their mouth-really impressive). They skillfully integrate the live and puppet versions of the characters. Live Lula and her mother climb ladders, work at switchboards or run through hallways.
The attention to detail is amazing. Lula’s eyelashes move; little rats appear in appropriate places. One constant image was of feet, such as Lula’s own feet as she sits high overhead. It’s a nice reminder that as a kid, you see an awful lot of feet.
Here is a still from it. (We were encouraged to take photos)
Scene from Lula del Ray
I can’t wait to see what Manual Cinema does next. They are a brilliant theatre company. If you can, go see their show on May 30th. It’s well worth it.