I encountered Moses (a puppet) in an extract from ‘The Table’ by Blind Summit Theatre Company, performed at the Wellcome Collection in London. He is just like you and I – walking around talking about his existence. He lives on a table – or rather the space he is normally confined to in performance is a table.
The magical element to Moses is that he is real. The actors that work him live through him (‘physical thinking’) and it is their reality that makes him real. He becomes an embodiment of them – their experiences become his. They look at him while they work him, rather than looking at the audience and in turn the audience look at him rather than them (this is called ‘focus’ in puppetry). We see a mind behind the movement – Moses is not just a pillow with a lump of cardboard on top.
Philosopher Descartes talked of ‘going to the world which is not you’ – which is what we do with puppetry. Puppets are not us and yet by going to them we meet our own emotions head on. We see ourselves in the ‘other’ which is more like us than we at first thought. The ‘other’ carries emotions which we recognise. In the play ‘The Suit’ recently shown at the Young Vic Theatre in London, writer Peter Brook shows that it is the suit itself that carries the emotion – the ‘thing’ is the haunter, rather then the person it once contained.
Have you ever wondered why some people are scared of clowns? If they are too ‘real’ they frighten us. We like representation, not realness. In the gaming industry, if the avatars are too real, players of the games do less well…because the avatars hit a nerve of reality in the players: it is not just a game anymore and they are put off.
My conclusion again, as I’ve said before, is that the ‘make-believe’ contains more truth than we think. Next time you see a pillow and cardboard, think about what they might become…