It’s based on part of a Ray Bradbury story Dandelion Wine. We’re in the Deep South and the 1930s. Two women friends have planned to see a Charlie Chaplin comedy, but their houses are divided by a deep ravine, and there’s a killer about. No prizes for guessing what happens in this steamy mix of Tennessee Williams, Washington Irving, Dylan Thomas, Frederick Knott and Alfred Hitchcock – add other influences as they strike you.
Lighting and shadow puppets create the atmosphere. Tom Crame and Lexie Lambert with director Rachel Warr are responsible for the look of the piece with its dolls’ house locations and some interesting sound effects from Ben Oliver. Katie Pattinson is no-nonsense Lavinia with Jennie Fox as the fluffier Francine. Their progress into fear is abetted by Sophie Steel as the strangler’s first victim, Elizabeth, and Tom Crane as basically everyone else in the story.
This début production goes on to Edinburgh and has also been seen at the Little Angel Theatre in London. Warr has Ipswich roots, so this excellent start for a new company has local as well as a wider interest. Mounting one of my personal hobby-horses, I’m delighted to see that the European tradition of puppet theatre for adults is finally taking root on this side of the English Channel.
If puppets are a very old form of theatrical presentation, video presentation is much more recent. Projector Conjector is bang up-to-date, perhaps even too much so. There are no spoken words, just two mime-dancers – Mamoru Iriguchi and Selina Papoutsell, one with a video projector on his head and the other with a television screen. Their costumes are ambiguous – decorated jumpsuits which blur sexual identities – but we focus on the technology. It's in as well as on your face.
<i>Projector Conjector</i> is all a bit like a Fabergé egg, opening to reveal marvels but there's never a natural yolk among them. Part of the “plot” is based on the ballet Swan Lake; the trouble is that, having taken this to a (fairly) logical conclusion, Iriguchi and Papsellout then goes on to play a variation on it – and become unstuck. There are obviously difficulties in slicing ten or more minutes off what is not a long show, but it really needs to be done.