Created, Directed and Performed by Jiří Zeman and Martina Maurič Lazar
Music by Milko Lazar
Things are never what they appear, and this evening – Ljubljana Puppet Theatre’s Moč (The Power) makes this quite clear.
We’re caught off-guard by an overly zealous Jiří Zeman, who offers an introduction of sorts to the production. A playful, seven to ten-minute routine aid us in understanding this bizarre world where we’re never entirely sure who pulls the strings. Zeman floats ideas surrounding puppetry and comedy and offers a brief insight into what’s ahead: darkness. Sheer darkness, save for the blazes of a camera lens, and the gentle tinkle of lanterns when we are graced with such.
In this creeping darkness, audiences gather a sliver of the double-take of power: the objects we bestow ourselves in and utilise in our command of others. This highly intimate production takes time to ferment, initially a visual piece which presents as engaging – it all begins to take shape as the guise falls, a woman, reluctantly there it seems, waves her palm in a regal fashion – the constant presence of a male courtesan (co-creator and initial host Zeman) who fidgets, adjusts, bemoans, and photographs her.
The meticulous pacing that Martina Mauric Lazar controls is fascinating: resolute in her place – even when pestered and snarled at, continues to sit there and bide their time as they grow to resonate a deeper sense of control burning in this darkened room. It takes time. Time Mauric Lazar affords herself to move, contort and manipulate themselves and the room and when finally left alone, the true majesty of Moč begins as the crinoline is lifted.
Beneath this cumbersome hoopskirt, discarded, forgotten, fractured, is a glass marionette: the size of a tiny child. Whilst it’s never confirmed or refuted, the origins of this poor unfortunate soul can be grasped immediately if you so choose. Gradually, she is plagued by a series of small puppets – some distinctive, others absurd in their design and texture. They emerge from all over, from positioned side tables to the looming chandelier overhead – and emerging from the shadows themselves.
Puppet designer Gregor Lorenci sculpts each clay, rubber, glass or two-dimensional creature with care, detail, and intention. Each one has a purpose and place, a story of its own: beneath the subtext, this riveting hour away from the world outside is utterly enthralling to witness. Milko Lazar’s ominous music is often our only friend through the journey, Maša Avsec’s limited lighting offering little comfort in a world where our tears and cries are heard by the numb, aided by the same numb grotesques who hear our pleads and calls.
Perfectly pitched, no more no less, Ljubljana Puppet Theatre’s Moč (The Power) captures sublimely within the span of the hour – a bewitching hour – stark imagery which speaks volumes with a mostly silent voice. What conclusions audiences come to are relatively meaningless, Moč will speak to all differently: The estranged powerful, the meek powerless, and the fragile puppets left in the shadows. This is without question a highlight of the 2023 MANIPULATE season and indeed a sterling reminder of the seven-decades worth of marvel, creativity and magic which has gone into the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre. Bravo.
An Intimate and Marvellous Venture Into Power
Moč (The Power) runs at Summerhall until February 6th. Age Rating: 18+
Tickets: £12/£10 (con) and may be obtained here.
Performances of which will be available with BSL. Please contact the venue for access bookings.
Photo Credit – Urška Boljkovac