‘The Nose’ – Carnival of Objects
This interpretation of Gogol's 'The Nose' is full of energy and exuberance, with a huge array of well-crafted puppets representing strong characters inspired by commedia dell'arte. These feel appropriate for the slightly surreal story of a Russian civil servant whose nose escapes and starts living an independent life. There is also video animation, a full-body inhabited puppet (the Nose) and cardboard drawings, although these are the least effective element. In an inside space, the film is strong and overpowers the 2D images, which seem small and not as engaging.
The fairground atmosphere created by Carnival of Objects is welcoming, with bunting and live music provided by The Cabinet of Living Cinema, who accompany the action with sensitivity and brio throughout, adding much needed texture and nuance. The playing style is heightened and can be little overwrought; sometimes I long for some breathing space.
One of strongest moments is the tick-tick as we wait for a minute to pass after the Journalist's words, "Just a minute." This puppet is manipulated from its head and the hand, writing rhythmically with a quill, is the puppeteer's. The effect of writing is simultaneously combined with projected animation of writing and is very effective.
At times the half human-sized puppets are problematic, sharing their feet with their performers', with only their arms manipulated and their heads wobbling about attached by wire to the performers' necks. Thus there is no focus given to the puppet's head and I find I am watching the lively performer rather than the dangling puppet.
This is especially true of the Mrs Osipovna character. The female rod puppet, or marotte, who becomes the subject of the Nose's attentions is frequently not manipulated at all, also drawing my gaze to her performer. The puppet remains object-like beyond what might be seen as useful or symbolic for her role.
Punch and Judy are used to frame and introduce the story, which adds to the fairground feel and, in fact, I could see this show working best outdoors since it is big and brash and lacks subtlety for the intimate space of the Little Angel, where it can feel a bit chaotic and crowded. It comes as no surprise the piece was commissioned by Bournemouth Arts by the Sea festival.
Carnival of Objects
Little Angel Theatre