'The Engineer's Thumb' – Dotted Line Theatre
Brilliantly designed and directed, this production is a remarkable achievement for Dotted Line Theatre. Based on a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Engineer's Thumb’ is an original and captivating adaptation that combines inventive dramaturgical devices with varied puppetry techniques. The piece echoes German Expressionist aesthetics with asymmetrical scenery and prop design, and the careful use of sound, light and shadow, which together create continuous and simultaneous meta-narratives that enrich and enhance the story.
The story is told in first person by the main character, Victor Hatherley, a novice hydraulics engineer who, having just finished a long apprenticeship, decides to set himself up for business in central London. What starts as an exciting business adventure ends up as a horror story when the young entrepreneur gets his long awaited first commission from a menacingly mysterious client. The client demands absolute secrecy over the nature of the job. Though uneasiness grows in the heart of the young engineer due to the obscure nature of both the client and the commission, he accepts the generously rewarded opportunity.
Victor Hatherly's character, portrayed by actor the Michael Imerson, is a rod puppet that three performers/puppeteers take it in turns to manipulate. All three switch roles from performer to puppeteer in smooth, almost unnoticeable transitions. They also puppeteer the scenery and props, and play with shadows and transform objects, in order to illustrate the main narration. Thus the audience is taken into the psyche of the young man, into the uncanny journey that he describes as a nightmare from the beginning.
Reminiscent of the classic silent film ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari’, both in style and in narrative structure, the piece swims in an atmosphere of the supernatural that questions the notion of reality, of the possible and the believable. Romantic horror clichés are balanced with subtle humour that breaks the pace and adds dynamism to the whole structure of the show.
‘The Engineer's Thumb’ is a Gothic tale rich in visual imagery that unfolds smoothly from action to action, building up the suspense until reaching its climax and final resolution. It is an original and imaginative piece of theatre, cared for to the last detail, which keeps the spectator expectant and captivated from the start. It’s a delightful experience without a single dull moment.
'The Engineer's Thumb'
Dotted Line Theatre
Little Angel Theatre