Backup, a mix of puppetry and gestural object theatre, is a half hour of pure delight. Performers Julie Tenret, Sandrine Heyraud, and Sicaire Durieux are joined onstage by an absolutely stunning miniature set by Zoé Tenret and beautiful puppets by Waw Studios and Joachim Janin. Though suitable for children, there were very few in the audience and one took an understandable fright and had to leave halfway through the performance. The inner child of every adult in the audience, however, was in raptures.
A beautifully transporting piece of theatre which shouldn’t be missed.
The first act follows a bare bones television crew as they drive further and further beyond human habitation into the arctic. A tiny village is laid out upon a table (and on the costume of Durieux, who starts on stage). A toy van drives through the landscape. The landscape gets hillier, as Tenret lies on the table, miniature trees sprouting from her back and legs. Eventually we are transported into the van, to the squashed existence of the three characters. The silent acting, featuring a pieces of the van as well as car journey staples, is trip. The presentation is perfect, and the bumbling of the characters is both intimately relatable and a pure pleasure to watch.
The characters eventually reach their destination, allowing for a bit of brilliant physical comedy from the trio before a dramatic change in circumstances paves the way to the second act via clever use of video. The lights come back up on the miniature set’s ‘mountain’ – now uncovered to reveal a life-sized polar bear puppet, eliciting gasps from the audience. As her playful cub emerges, the sheer delight of the audience resumes.
The triple performance of the Tenret, Heyraud, and Durieux is impeccable, and the set and puppets are absolutely gorgeous – this is definitely a company to watch. The only problem: the show is too short and doesn’t come to any narrative conclusion. The audience are left hanging, as both the television crew and the polar bears’ stories end abruptly and without the sense of a completed narrative arc. The characters were drawn so completely that it was difficult to walk away and leave them as they were left. With a few more minutes and a slightly more traditional narrative structure, this show would have been an easy five stars, yet it is still a beautifully transporting piece of theatre which shouldn’t be missed.