A Batyr Mamai

A multi-disciplinary piece using puppets, a projections, music and physical theatre. There were some really stunning and successful elements to the piece, it was a real shame not to understand the dialogue and storytelling which so clearly underpinned the production.

What I gathered from the non-lingual aspects of things was a story about a mythical warrior, who lives and reappears in many different eras, who once killed or repeatedly kills a mythical leopard-like beast, hanging it’s skin in his house. In one of his reincarnations he loses his lover or wife to the beast as it ransacks the village he lives in. He is bound to hunt the beast forever more as he can never be happy again.

This story was framed by a train journey taken by a young woman and two older men – an “ajusshi” and a “seonsengnim” (‘uncle’ and ‘teacher’) to or through Kazakhstan. The myth originated in central asia, in Kazakhstan I suppose. The three travelers meet the warrior and listen as he tells them his story, which they experience first hand with the audience in the form of projections on two large screens.

The puppetry of the piece was absolutely mesmerising. The puppets were beautiful in themselves, and the projected animation was wonderfully drawn too. One thing I will never forget about this piece is the carved warrior’s face, hung above the stage and screens throughout the whole performance, onto which was projected an animated version of the same face. As the audience entered and sat awaiting the performance, he blinked and watched through thin eyes, and then in parts of the play he took over the narration, his mouth moving as he spoke. It was so effective and realistic I kept getting distracted by it! It was amazing!

I think this piece would  be extremely successful if it were performed in English – I originally wrote “a universal language” – but I’m quite glad we don’t have one, though English is getting to be that way.

Originally written on Monday 10th October 2011 and published on Tumblr.

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