Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival

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Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival

Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival is a festival of puppetry, animation and object theatre for adults. Drop the P-word and most people tend to think of talking socks, flying sausages and general silliness: kids’ stuff, in other words. Manipulate, now in its third year, offers something altogether more grown-up.

From politically charged shadow-play to a sound sculpture combining ‘cultural memory’ with Foucaultian philosophy, to a wordless exploration of the rooms inside our minds, the work on show at this week-long festival is diverse, original and likely to challenge and confuse those many adults whose experience of puppetry extends little further than Kermit the Frog.

‘For anybody who’s gone to some sort of puppet show as a child – and I think we’re all very clear about the conventions of puppetry and object theatre in that context – to return to the art form as an adult can be very interesting and very intriguing, because they really don’t know what to expect,’ says Manipulate’s artistic director Simon Hart, who hopes to promote this versatile art form to the general public more and more as the young festival grows, as well as providing a valuable core service to Scottish puppetry practitioners.

Immediate satisfaction for those seeking linear narratives and clear messages may not be forthcoming, but what Manipulate does promise is food for thought, and Hart is proud of that mysterious, unfamiliar quality of the work: ‘I think at its best this sort of work appeals directly to those emotional responses that are not particularly explicable. In the UK we’re so focused on the spoken word because of that heritage of Shakespeare onwards, that it’s nice to present something which is entirely different.’

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 2–Sat 6 Feb

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