Figuren Theater Tubingen are a German theatre company who look to combine puppetry, object manipulation and drama. This evening they are presenting their show Wunderkammer at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh as part of the Manipulate Festival. The company has been around since 1991 and have visited the festival several times over the years. Wunderkammer looks to push their use of puppetry further with an intimate and enjoyable piece of visual theatre.
The show is a series of scenes woven together with the common thread of characters discovering new things and overcoming obstacles. The three puppeteers manipulate a vast array of ornately designed puppets on a table top and employ objects and props to add to the magic.
Wunderkammer begins with the opening of a box. A pair of golden hand emerge and the audience take their first steps on the journey of the show. Hands are a motif that occur throughout Wunderkammer. The idea of touching and experiencing tangible things feels at the heart of the performance, which is expressed through the elaborate design of the puppets. We see characters with extended limbs, scissors for hands and glass-like insects with extruding arms and legs. Each one has its own curiosity and own need to reach out and grab something. This curiosity draws the audience into the performance, allowing us to see the world from the perspective of these strange creatures.
As well as puppets we witness the inventive use of bubbles. One of the performers blows the bubbles on to the table top and the subtle blue lighting bounces of the objects, giving the illusion of small delicate crystal balls. The playful nature of the work emphasises the magic of the puppetry and the stylistic use of props and lighting.
Wunderkammer is a joyful experience infused with style and intrigue, though an overriding narrative would have made the show seem more cohesive. Still, Wunderkammer is an excellent example of how much excitement can be infused into a simple and sophisticated puppet.