Edinburgh – Ada/Ava by Manual Cinema

Spoiler:  I love shadow puppets, and I think it’s one of the most underrated performance techniques, at least in the UK.  I’ve seen a few over the years at the Fringe, and they’re normally for younger audiences or a bit niche.  But done well, shadow puppets can create performances of rare beauty.  The Underbelly Potterow venue probably held 250 and it was sold out.

Ada/Ava is an astonishingly beautiful performance. The team of five manipulate shadow puppets on projectors to create each scene. To the rear, a large live screen can create human shadows. Beside them, several accomplished musicians, along with those creating inventive sound effects, generate the soundtrack. In real time, they create a film on the giant screen hanging at the front.

It’s a tender story. Ava and Ada are sisters and have shared their long lives together. One day Ada dies, and Ava tries to cope without her. A travelling carnival arrives and Ava considers a life alone through the hall of mirrors.  At times surreal and dreamlike, it’s a story that takes you right into the intimate details of their lives, and their history. On the one hand it is very slow, gently revealing the past and present emotions, hopes and fears. On the other, scene changes come fast and frequent, which maintains visual interest.

This production is a remarkable achievement. Technically, timing is split second perfect, and the coordination of each activity is flawless. The music, sound effects and voice are stunning in their own right. Taken together this is a spellbinding performance.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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