As soon as the man in white face paint screamed ‘lock ze doors!’, I knew we were in for something interesting.
La Vie Dans Une Marionette is a delightful confection of humour and surprising pathos. Making a return visit to The Basement as part of their Matariki season, White Face Dance Crew tell the story of a lonely pianist (Tama Jarman) and the marionette (Justin Haiu) he orders to keep him company.
Performed by Jarman, Haiu and Jarod Rawiri, La Vie Dans Une Marionette is a superb showcase for their talents in clowning, mime, dance and trash-talking the audience.
Completely silent, Jarman and Haiu make a terrific double act. With their movements in perfect sync with each other, it is hard not to believe that Jarman is puppeteering Haiu around.
Once the marionette begins to move on its own (brought to life by the sound of music), the story turns into a slapstick version of Frankenstein, as the increasingly exasperated pianist attempts to teach his new companion how to drink and clean. These sequences, blending mime and slapstick, really emphasise how talented these performers really are.
Jarod Rawiri, playing the host, the moon and the man who delivers the marionette, offers a wonderful juxtaposition to the others with his extremely vocal performances. In any other show, these roles would just fade into the background, but Rawiri literally demands your attention — moonwalking; screaming at the audience as the host; rambling incoherently as the delivery man. In a show of stand-outs, he is the stand-out.
While watching the performance, I marvelled at the artful simplicity of the entire enterprise. The ability to balance a simple, rather sad story with moments of inspired (and silent) prat falling is a lost art in today’s over-saturated mediascape.
At no point does anything feel extraneous or a mistake. Their movements simply become a part of their characters and the story. The effort put into making it all look effortless is simply jaw-dropping. And they manage to pack it all into about an hour run time.
If you would like to see the moon perform a moonwalk while screaming at you in vaguely Franco-sounding gibberish, La Vie Dans Une Marionette is the show for you. It is a delight.
La Vie Dans Une Marionette is presented by White Face Crew and plays at The Basement until 25 June. Details see The Basement.