Polish puppetry for adults
This article is from 2008.
Baldanders examines the relationship between a freak show master and his caged beast. Inspired by the fantastical, existential ideas of Edgar Allen Poe, Jorge Luis Borges and Topor, it’s a thorny and enigmatic show that explores man’s desire for control. Presented in four skits, and featuring actors/puppeteers Marcin Bartnikowski and Marcin Bikowski, it’s a darkly comic and deeply symbolic piece. In the first episode, the titular character fights with a bare-breasted female puppet for one of her teeth, while, in the second skit, Baldanders argues ethics with seven headless men. The third act features a hissing devil, who entices Baldanders to commit his soul, while, in the final vignette, Baldanders meets his alter ego, and successfully chops off his head.
Both Bartnikowski and Bikowski are impressive ventriloquists and puppeteers, who bring their puppets to life by shouting, fighting and dancing with them. Bartnikowski is especially gifted in the various ways he uses his body to manoeuvre the puppet around him. This is serious, comic theatre for lovers of the Gothic, but beware of the play’s complex plot: interpreting the many metaphors in the narrative is by no means an easy feat.
Hill Street Theatre, 226 6522, until 25 August (not 20), 7:50pm, £10–£11 (£8–£ 9).