New York, NY
April 4, 2002
review by Donald Devet
Just when you think you’ve seen every possible technique in puppet staging, along comes something entirely different.
Just when you think you’ve seen every possible technique in puppet staging, along comes something entirely different. Imagine seeing a puppet stage designed as a full size hut covered in thin rice paper with a rectangular window cut into the front. Through that window appear all of the scenery and puppets from above, below, left and right, via an intricate system of pulleys and levers. Sounds simple, but you can’t witness this staging in action without marveling at the clever design.
The unique staging is the brain child of Katarini Antounakaki, a graduate of Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charlesville-Mezieres, France. Basil Twist, who curates the Dream Music Puppetry Program at HERE, was so enchanted with her work that he arranged for her to bring this show to the USA. Although “Intimate Diary of a Fly” is designed to be performed by one person, Emmanuel Journand- Briquete should also be credited as the director and Etienne Saur for the music. But it is Antounakaki, the performer, who commands our full attention.
A native of Greece, Antounakaki has written, designed and starred in a story which I can’t tell you anything about. It’s not that I don’t want to; I wish I could. But hard as I tried, I could not follow the plot. It wasn’t because of the minimal use of narration or lack of dialog. It’s just that it was impossible for me to pick up a thread of a story line. Maybe there wasn’t a story to follow after all. Maybe “Intimate Diary of a Fly” was just a series of episodes, like pages randomly selected from a diary.
Antounakaki plays the part of interlocutor, acting out scenes inspired by entries she jots down in a tattered diary presumably belonging to “the fly.” (Or is she the fly?) She has an intimate style, speaking softly, acting shy, childlike. Her movements are small and calculated as she works the pulleys and manipulates the puppets in full view of the audience. The puppets, diminutive and primitive, are bleached almost white and are devoid of personality. But I wasn’t watching the puppets. (Is one of the puppets the fly?) My eyes were following Antounakaki. I was desperately tried to figure out through her body movements what was happening. After a while I gave up. I decided to focus instead on her wonderful staging techniques which continued to offer several surprises. At one point a puppet spontaneously bursts into flame. Later, a miniature aquarium containing a live goldfish descends into view.
Antounakaki ended her performance as she began it. When the show started, she opened a battered suitcase and put on a threadbare smock; as the show ended, she removed the smock, closed the suitcase and quietly exited, signifying that the “story” was over. Now, will somebody please tell me what happened?