A hooded figure (human) steps into a cryptic circle of flat stones to paint on a translucent sheet of plastic/glass. It rains. As words are written, they drip to illegibility. Three wounds of Oedipus…I call no one…Tomorrow I shall leave…French language voice-over is accompanied by projected English supertitles. “Where are you going?” Antigone asks. “Anywhere on the road,” he responds. The figure exits.
At the back of the stage, Oedipus, dressed in rags, (a white marionette about 18”), moves tenuously across rough terrain, cane before him. The “glass” has fallen and hangs precipitously at an angle. We hear faint drums, strings, electronic sounds. Oedipus stumbles and falls. The glass crashes down and breaks.
According to Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, King Oedipus, son of Laius and Jocasta, is told by the Delphic Oracle that a plague on Thebes will cease only if Laius’ murderer is found and punished. Delving into his past, Oedipus discovers it was he who unwittingly killed Laius.
He then unknowingly married his mother giving birth to Antigone, who became both daughter and sister. Jocasta hung herself in shame. Guilt-stricken Oedipus blinded himself. Both Sophocles and author Henry Bauchau posit that he then wandered in exile, found refuge in Colonus, and becoming a benevolent citizen, garnered protection by the king of Athens. There he died.
It would make the experience richer to have background information in a program.
“Father wait for me. Father wait for me. Father wait for me.” Antigone, (a human woman), finds the prostrate figure of her father and lifts him tenderly. Precariously barefoot on the loose stone circle, she carries him “…with insane obstinacy. She is hungry. She is thirsty. As he is…” Oedipus is placed gently on the ground. All we see in the evocative light are her legs and his. Very, very slowly Oedipus attempts to rise until successful, though quivering on his feet. Figure articulation makes pain palpable. We hear mystical stringed instruments, horns.
The piece travels with Oedipus and Antigone, watching futile efforts to stem fate. As he becomes the child, his daughter acts as caregiver. Weather (more rain), terrain, and exhaustion overtake. During the journey, the puppet begins to melt. Yes, MELT. Pieces of ice fall off, the body grows skeletal. Fog forms at the front of the stage. It takes awhile to fully absorb that Oedipus is made of ice, in its way, an ashes to ashes metaphor. At the last he rises, dripping.
Dream Puppetry Director Basil Twist asks questions of Elise Vigneron (Antigone) and Helene Barreau (Puppeteer) who created the marvelous piece. Oedipus must be remade for every performance. Water is poured into a sculpted rubber mold with only string and metal connection. Twist compares it to making a popsicle. White is added to further the illusion.
The figure is, like life, “ephemeral.” Barreau controls him, mostly from off stage, by means of a many stringed harness that allows for subtlety of movement. “The language of materials leads us more into imagination,” Vigneron tells us.
Transitory nature is eloquently manifest in this creative retelling of an ancient tale.
Photos by Vincent Beaume
HERE Dream Music Puppetry Program presents
Theatre de l’Entrouvert’s
Conceived by Elise Vigneron
Based on the novel Oedipe Sur La Route by Henry Bauchau
Directed and Performed by Elise Vigneron and Helene Barreau
HERE Art Center
145 Sixth Avenue
Through March 15, 2020