New York City
review by Donald Devet
Longer running than “Cats,” “Gustaf and His Ensemble” is a living time capsule.
One look at Gustaf says it all. In 2001, this aging imp of a clown with a wagging finger will mark his 50th year of performing. He is still playing the piano, riding a pony and taking time to smell the roses. But turn your gaze upward to his maker, Roser. Notice any similarities? Could it be the twinkle in the eye or is it the sporty pony tail? Over the years puppet and puppeteer have grown to resemble each other.
At first glance it may seem that Roser’s touring show hasn’t changed in decades. But look carefully. Roser and assistant Ingrid Hofer have made a few subtle alterations. Instead of reel to reel tapes for their music playback they’ve switched to cassette. And there seems to be more interplay between Roser and Hofer than there used to be. For instance, when they drape the stage with a large piece of fabric, their actions resemble a long married couple making their bed, silently fussing.
But it’s what doesn’t change that makes Roser a international treasure. His sensitive and virtually flawless manipulation of expertly crafted marionettes is an inspiration to puppeteers around the world. Longer running than “Cats,” “Gustaf and His Ensemble” is a living time capsule.
Now and forever.