'Still Life' - Folded Feather
Pleasance Theatre | Suspense London Puppetry Festival
Still Life, presented by Folded Feather, was a visual journey into a post-apocalyptic landscape scattered with fragmented objects striving to find their place. The creatures inhabiting the darkness are formed from discarded objects: a chair, an old pair of boots, some pillowcases, each reconfigured into distinct characters with their own internal desires, fears, motives... hang-ups. The performers, Oliver Smart and Matt Short, manipulated well. There was a clarity of focus and strong attention to detail in the their characterisation: the animated ‘bat’ was particularly noteworthy – an excellent example of how the simplest of materials, when animated well, can captivate an audience. In fact, the mantra ‘keep it simple stupid’ could sum up the work of Folded Feather, a company that delight in creating a world from the contents of a junk shop. There was a genuine charm to watching some chickens (made from pillowcases) fight over their territory; a scene delivered with a slapstick sensibility. I doubt that even the most cynical audience member would fail to warm to these silly barnyard birds.
It was enjoyable discovering the object-creatures as they took shape before our eyes, and I found myself oscillating between wanting to pinpoint what I saw – Is that bit of fabric meant to be a war victim? An old man? A monk? – and remembering to be present and enjoying the textures, shapes and movement qualities as they emerged. Trying to find a cohesive narrative structure within this performance would have been a futile effort; anyone looking for a storyline would have left frustrated. Instead, Still Life is best enjoyed as a ‘performative patchwork’ of characters, scenes and beautifully crafted moments – so sit back and enjoy the journey! Smart and Short’s work seems to stem from a highly organic process based in devising – one where whatever sparks a seed of interest is developed in the rehearsal room. There was a real sense of exploration in the performance, a sense of ‘let’s see what this can do’, and this, in essence, is the basis of any good object theatre.