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The fisherman and his wife

The power of visual aesthetics


Anta Ameixeiras Cundns

This analysis will be focus in a show made by a group of students from DAMU The fisherman and his wife, that took place in DAMU building on the 4th January 2014. The play is directed by Husam Abed, master student of Direction for Alternative and puppet theatre at Academy of performing Arts in Prague. Husam, who comes from Jordan, is member of Amman Theatre Lab. and founder member of Dafa Puppet Theatre, an interesting theatre company that fight against the stealing basic human rights in Arabic countries; works for education, health, water and tries to create a learning environment through Performance Arts for children and adults. The project we are dealing with is formed by three puppeteer also students of DAMU: Oriane Saadouni, Julliete Genty-Cousin, Ruby Behrmann; one producer: Kevin Chio, a set designer: Matic Gselman, a music composer: Kate Young and a costume designer: Reka Deak. The play was called The fisherman and his wife and his wife. A grimm Brothers fairy tale that presents a poor Fisherman and his willful greedy wife. When he suddenly hooks an enchanted flounder, everything in their life turns out different. The performance talks about one who wants everything and loses everything. This production of The fisherman and his wife was so well adapted to a puppet show, respecting the story, without changing the plot and leaving the originality for aesthetics. The little theatre was completely plenty, they made us laugh and never lose attention.

I find interesting to compare it with a professional show as !elisti Reloaded by the well known company Buchty a loutky. Actually, this last play is directed by Radek Beran the Husam Abed own mentor. Furthermore I would like to talk about the importance of theatre language in those plays, cause the first one was in english but !elisti Reloaded was in czech The Fisherman and His Wife is the story of a poor fisherman and his wife who live in a little hut near the sea. When the fisherman leaves home to fish one day, he catches something most surprising from the sea. The fisherman catches a fish--but not an ordinary fish. This is a gold that fish can talk, and it explains to the fisherman that it is really a prince who has had a spell cast upon him. The fish begs to be released back to the sea and the fisherman obliges, having no use for a talking fish. The fisherman returns home and tells his wife the story of the talking fish. His wife asks the fisherman if he asked the fish to grant him a wish. When the fisherman answers no, his wife gets angry and insists that he return to the sea and ask the fish to give them a decent cottage to live in. When the fish grants this wish, the wife insists that the

fisherman go back again and ask for a mansion. Reluctantly, the fisherman agrees, and, again, the wife's wish is granted. This pattern continues, with the greedy wife continuing to ask for more and the fish granting each wish. Eventually, the wife asks for too much. After being made emperor and pope, she asks to be just like God. This time, when the fisherman asks the fish for this on behalf of his wife, the air is filled with thunder and the fisherman and his wife are returned to their little hut, all of their wealth and power gone forever. The show starts with the three puppeteer hidden under a pile of garbage as a symbol of the poverty in which the fisherman and his wife live. With the live music of an accordion played by Kate Young, this three puppeteer rise from the wreckage of trash surprising the viewers and start dancing and singing each with a fish in each hand. The fisher are little puppets with a long stick to handle them. In the center of the stage there is an aquarium with an abstract sea shell as a stage. This original idea of stage gives the show an identity and make us believe that we are in an aquarium. The director, Husam, explains that idea of the story is coming from sea shell. And he remembers his childhood when he and other children used to put shell on our ears to hear sounds of the sea, wind... At that time, he used to hear many sounds that he didn't understand also when he saw an aquarium for the first time in his life he was wondering if he were living there, how it feels. For around 40 minutes, we discovered how it feels. This sensation of being inside of the aquarium is achieved thanks to a source of illumination below the aquarium and an inclined screen, quite above the aquarium, where we can see reflected the shadows of the fish puppet swimming through the aquarium handle by the puppeteers. But the scenario could be whatever they want it to be. When the wife want to be the queen, Kate starts playing medieval music in her accordion and the puppeteers quickly add some medieval flags. When the wife wants to be the Pope, the atmosphere gets into it with religious music and candles. Another interesting thing in the show is the illumination. This is a very visual work, full of lighting games and symbolisms that are achieved thank to the focus below the aquarium and the reflective screen above. Thus, we see how the colors of the spotlight filter go changing according to the mood of the goldfish. When fisherman's wife asks for more and more wishes, the color changes from blue-green to yellow, orange, and when she asks to be God, the illumination is completely red. The aquarium water also accompanies lighting, quiet at first

will become increasingly rough when the fish gets angry at the request of the woman: red and swell. This production plays with the lighting and sound, giving a minimalist and tasteful feel. The fisherman is a wooden puppet handmade, as well as the rest of the puppets, by Matic Gselman, master student of Stage Design for Alternative and Puppet Theatre. The golden fish is a beautiful polystyrene puppet painted in gold and decorated with different colors. The wife of the fisherman is especially engaging. She is made by two pieces of wood (face and body) connected by a neck. Her movements are really droll: the movement starts in the head and then comes to the body through the neck, like a Michael Jackson dance. This movement is accompanied and highlighted with the same motion made by the puppeteer. But the essence in this character is in the neck. Her neck gets longer and longer acquiring the appearance of a huge monster, as grows her ambition. So, when she asks to be God his neck is huge and she looks at everyone else from above. However, when she loses all because of her vast ambition, her neck also returns to its initial state.

The three puppeteers use all its resources, from singing, to tapping dances, always accompanied by their puppets. When the show finishes, as the fisherman and his wife come back to their hut, the puppeteers come back to their places under the waste residues too. The technical and aesthetic part of the play was definitely hilarious. The illumination, the music, the scenario, the costumes were not only really original and creative, but also work perfectly with the story. However, an important issue that we should criticize is the slowness with which, sometimes, the puppeteers sometimes acted, bringing the feeling of some missing rehearsal. We also have to take into account that they are students. One aspect that I have missed in the play was the fisherman. From my point of view, the director gave a little prominence to this important character, cause he has an interesting undertone. He is the face of resignation. I would deepen more on this character and on the idea that the fisherman does everything which is humanly possible to satisfy his wifes wishes assuming that that will make her happy. This, however, is not the case. He merely fulfils her material wishes but he doesn't give her what she really needs, namely, more attention, real conversation and a closer relationship. The fisherman is seen as too undemanding, he must learn to realise what he wants for himself and his marriage and he must learn to voice his wishes and stand up to them.

The other play I would like to talk a little was !elisti Reloaded, a great adaptation of Spielberg film: Jaws. The first difference we see is the huge amount of attrezzo, and the perfect organization they had . So, we can see the difference between a students play and a professional one. In this last one they were perfectly coordinated in their sleight of hand, they were fast and accurate. Despite I knew the story and I can assess the originally, the mixture of video, body art, puppets of all types, shapes and sizes, water plays I cannot help feeling I am missing a lot because of the language. On the one hand, the theater can be taken as a universal language because it is based on oral, written and body language. The body language can be taken as a universal language in a way because our body emits nonverbal messages. The body is part of a language communication, expressed emotional states and projected thoughts, wishes, desires and purposes done through proper positions and movements. On the other hand I missed some gags about the Communist period in Czechoslovakia and sometimes I just could not understand some variations on the original story. One way or another, the play was understood, and I enjoyed their performance, her incredible handling puppets control and the humor and originality in doing their play. To sum up, the shows were both plays superbly resolved, each in its context. In the first one we see young and eager students with wonderful ideas, great talent, such a good taste for visual theatre, but with perhaps a lack of experience. The second one without being as poetically visual and aesthetic as the other work, is a professional job and a very personal and fun adaptation that has nothing to envy to the audiovisual work by Spielberg.

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