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From France with love, CREAtivity with strings attached

‘Life-sized’ puppetry, poetry, music and action gel into one in Pacotille, a play by France-based CREA

Written by Garima Rakesh Mishra | Pune |
January 31, 2015 3:06:09 am
Pune is hosting the play at Kalachaya. Pune is hosting the play at Kalachaya.

Old newspapers, discarded clothes, imagination and unbridled CREAtivity. And Presto. We have some magic on stage. Life-sized puppets brushing shoulders with actors, puppetry synchronised with acting, a symbiosis of visual effects, music and poetry. Call it what you may, the result is a treat for the eyes and ears for lovers of art.

Pacotille, a play presented by CREA, a France-based artistes’ group, is a welcome innovation, making lifeless puppets breathe some fresh life into theatre.

Normandy is home to CREA that excels in theatre and circus, perhaps just the right combo to get puppets and actors to interact with ease. Pacotille, conceptualised by France-based Aude Maréchal, was first staged in 2008.

Travelling is another art the group excels in. The troupe has been moving across France in its theatre-bus. After 200 shows in France, Slovenia, Thailand, Nepal and a couple of cities in India, Pune’s Kalachhaya Open auditorium will start staging it on Saturday, 6.30 pm. Alliance Française de Pune is behind its debut in Pune.

Maréchal had taken just a week to create the puppets. She used newspapers to make the face. The body was made of second-hand clothes. “I wanted to create a character that could move on stage as an actor and that’s why I made a human-size puppet. More than designing them, the bigger challenge was to give emotions to match the role it is playing,” says Maréchal, director, actor and puppeteer, who learnt puppet-making and puppetry during her two-year stay in Paris. After returning to her hometown Normandy, she created her own show. Pacotille was born in 2008.

Does the play convey any message? Maréchal says it does not carry any message in particular and is open to interpretations. Each in the audience can have his/her own interpretation. “Pacotille is a visual, musical and poetic play where meetings, chases, misunderstandings, sleight of hand roll one after another,” she adds.

The story palette of Pacotille is quite colourful. One morning, a tramp finds a magic box on a bench in a park. He opens the magic box, the puppets fashioned out of newspapers (paper mache) appear. They start interacting with him. They are five of them and bond with the tramp.

“A new world opens up and the vagabond finds himself in the midst of these characters made of newspapers. Because they play and disturb him, and the tramp becomes a puppet of the puppets,” she says, adding that the puppets meet actors on stage and these confrontations give the show its rhythm. “The idea of the play was to use simple materials like old newspaper and clothes to create something that isn’t fixed, and which allows everyone to have their own image and to allow themselves to lose themselves in their dreams,” she said.

Pacotille is a synergy of the talent the energies of Georges Jouanne (actor), Didier Maréchal (technician for lights and sound) besides Aude Maréchal herself, giving it an ethereal and almost magical effect.

CREA, based in Normandy, has seven members. Three of them live in India. The rest are based in France. “In 2008, we set up our group. Now we have our own place that includes a circus tent, an auditorium and a theatre-bus, a big bus that has been converted into a small theatre. We travel in the bus for performances in France,” Maréchal says.

The group is on an Alliance Francaise tour to India and Nepal and has covered Kolkata, Kathmandu, Bhopal and Bengaluru. CREA will travel next to Chennai, Puducherry, Thiruvanathapuram and Ahmedabad.

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