Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Apples and Ladders, Dec 5, 2007

Apples and Ladders 
created by Sarah Kriegler and Jacob Williams, by Lemony S 
Carlton Courthouse, Dec 5 to Dec 22, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert, on Dec 5 2007

Apples and Ladders, created and performed by Sarah Kriegler and Jacob Williams, is a charming and emotive story that depicts a world in miniature. 

Three diminutive puppets the height of your forearm inhabit a world of tiny houses constructed atop four packing cases. Both puppeteers manipulate them in the style of the Japanese Bun Raku puppets.

Ludvik is a cheerful, round-faced old fella who, each day, collects his mail from the letterbox at his front gate. He strolls creakily down his street to sit playing his accordion. On his return walk, he nods a silent greeting to George, the jaded, lonely old drag queen who swigs booze from the bottle as he waits for the postcard that never arrives.

Each day Ludvik picks an apple from the lush apple tree and delivers it with love to his ailing wife Gertruda who languishes on the sofa.

These frail, old characters are haunted and taunted by a skeletal death figure (called the Knave of Hearts in the program). The menacing skeleton threatens them repeatedly, rattling its nasty, pointing fingers through their windows or leaping upon them without warning from behind the apple tree. He wants to steal not only their lives but also their human warmth, their love, represented in tiny red hearts.

The pint-sized characters come vividly to life with the smallest gestures: a wave of the hand, a tilt of a head, a shiver through the body as Death passes. There is palpable warmth and love in the home of Ludvik and Gertruda that contrasts with the melancholy chill that seeps through the windows of George’s home.

We witness their creeping decrepitude: Ludvik’s stiff and aching back, Gertruda’s lethargy and George’s bitter nostalgia for his days as a chanteuse wrapped in a red boa.

Another whole world appears in shadow puppets inside the boxes on which they stand. When Gertruda dies, taken by the cold hard hands of the Knave, she disappears into this shadowy nether world.

But it is a random act of kindness that chases away the Knave. From his window, George watches Ludvik’s sadness, picks a basket of apples, chases off the Knave’s dangerous advances and delivers the apples to Ludvik.

The evocative music of The Tiger Lilies and atmospheric lighting by Richard Vabre complete this memorable and moving production.

By Kate Herbert

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