Tim and I were lucky enough to get tickets to see Invisible Thread’s “Plucked” on Saturday 15th of October at Huddersfield University. Invisible Thread is the artistic vision of Liz Walker formerly of “Faulty Optic” who were well known for distinctly disturbing, surreal and adult puppetry. We had been invited to a work in progress showing at “Slung Low”‘s “The Hub” in Leeds, a while ago and they were keen to get follow-up feedback from people who had seen the early showings.
I have had a deep respect and admiration for Faulty Optic, ever since I saw their “Snuff House Dust Louse” show at the Green Room in Manchester. It was with my A-level Theatre Studies Group, and the majority of my class-mates were mystified as to what was supposed to be going on in the sections that involved non-verbal storytelling. I, on the other hand, was enchanted by how the narrative, music and lighting combined to make some green pterodactyl like bird puppets (that would be unusual but inoffensive in another context) into terrifying figures of evil that evoked a physical nerve tingling horror in me at that moment in the show. The other thing I liked about it, aside from its distincly un-Disneylike appearance and oddity, was that the terrifying and sad parts of the show were turned around into an uplifting, joyous climax.
“Plucked” was similar and different to “SnuffHouse..”. It contained lovely Heath Robinsonesque sets and I loved the music once again. An egg-slicer is used to great effect in the scary bits, creating dischordant jangling sounds that send shivers down your spine. The delightful half-comic half-alarming wolf character emerged to whirlizter style fairground music on an electric guitar heavy on the re-verb. This was once again a huge contributor to the drama of the scene, not merely an appropriate accompaniment.
A technique that I had not seen them use before was shadow projection using live drawing in some kind of black paint. I found this very interesting as a shadow puppet practitioner. It created a very raw and dark effect which was good for the story, but the drawings were less clear than a traditional shadow show would have been. They also used a pre-recorded animation using drawings in the same style later on, so it was like a continuation rather than appearing as a separate technique.
“Plucked” is definitely not for the squeamish, faint hearted and certainly not for children. I think the people who will enjoy this most are those who have been clamouring for stories about real women and non-stereotype roles for more mature females. Although the female protagonist is a bird-like puppet, there is no doubt that it is what it says on the tin, “A true fairytale”. It is a story about the real struggles of real women and their physical and emotional journeys through life. If this sounds dull it definitely isn’t the way Invisible Thread do it.
I am not a fan of violence, horror and gore for its own sake, but I do like it as part of a story with a happy ending (which I am happy to say this does). Personally I think it is immensely entertaining on many levels, containing sadness, joy, crudity, violence and love. It is as wide ranging in emotional scope as a Shakespeare play and is considerably better executed (and shorter) than many performances of the bard’s works.
The story turns a personal journey into an epic adventure with many struggles, dangers and a big helping of weirdness. I would definitely recommend any adults who are fans of excellent theatre and are not scared or weirded-out too easily to see this show. There are showings around the country up till the end of January next year on their gig list. Why not see if there’s one in your area?
For those of you who are wondering where the second half of the post about our visit to the lovely Hawkins family in Blackpool is. I shall be returning to that topic in my very next post and you shall find out all about the rest of our toy theatre antics. Watch this space!