Ma Biche et Mon Lapin (4 stars)

Ma Biche et Mon Lapin

Manipulate 2020: A visual feast of small wonders for incurable romantics

A man and a woman are seated at a table with a lace doily placed atop the surface, flanked by a small ceramic sculpture of a doe and a rabbit. What unfolds from there is nothing short of love's thrills and tragedies rendered in miniature, as everyday objects are imbued with drama and a ribald sense of humour.

Masters of object-theatre, it's a wondrous thing to see Collectif AïE AïE AïE convey a spectrum of emotion with the briefest twitch of a napkin. But their true narrative prowess comes from their deep understanding of an object's inherent symbolic value, and how these can be playfully manipulated to tell a story without words. Of course a bottle of beer and an empty stein are destined to be lovers; of course a rolled-up napkin and a napkin ring will have sex. Yet despite these personifications, the essential homeliness of the objects themselves are given scope to articulate the production's wider concern: how long-term love and companionship can offer a precious coziness, but also a stifling of seemingly more exciting desires elsewhere.

Despite its depiction of the pratfalls that come with love and loving, Ma Biche et Mon Lapin is deeply romantic at its heart. Its use of pastoral imagery and a soundtrack of schmaltzy strings poke fun at love's absurdities, but the show's gentle, forgiving tone, and the sensitive attention with which the performers handle their props, are themselves a vindication of love and care, elevating the sentimental and the mundane while also honouring – even celebrating – their essential kitschiness.

Reviewed at Summerhall, Edinburgh.

Manipulate Festival

Puppet Animation Scotland collates a collection of world-class animation, puppetry and related performing arts of all styles and techniques from a range of international artists and companies. The 2020 event features late-night music events, café-cabarets, workshops and more.

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