Impressions of Karakumu asilelis

Impressions of the Fourth International Puppet Festival "Karakumu asilelis" ["The donkey from the Karakum", trans.], Klaipeda, Lithuania, 27-29 April.

... We are used to puppet theatres usually aiming for an audience of children in order to amuse the little spectators.
Are topics such as death and holocaust suitable for a children's show? No, they aren't, are they? You cannot "stick" such issues on the sweets of the theatres and the food industry.
With its performance "Sand between your toes", it is precisely the tragic experiences of history the Norwegian theatre company "Fusentast" tries to convey. (Scriptwriter, artist and actor Jaap den Hertog says he relied on a relative's life story.) An old woman on her deathbed tells her grandchildren about the family's complicated history. How her eccentric relatives married, started their business, argued, and reconciled before World War II began. The large family was wiped out in the concentration camp crematoria. Only two youngsters managed to escape...

The actors J. den Hertog and Coby Omvlee make use of a "cabinet theatre" (set designers Inka Lill and Gunnar Fretheim). In the closet different characters appear in dozens of opening doors, windows and drawers. Sometimes the action stops and they turn to the children with questions: What do you think when you hear the word "war"? Do you know who Adolf Hitler was? Which crimes did he commit? ... There is a deathly silence on stage as an actress folds up the collar on her black coat and the SS markings become visible. At the front of the stage a confused person defends himself during an interrogation. A female person, who embodies Nazism, takes a slow step in the direction of a picture of a Jewish family hanging on the cabinet. Slowly she pulls out one of the Jew's silhouettes from the image, leaving a dark, faceless shadow instead of a human. Slowly she opens the door at the bottom of the cabinet, where a red light shows up. ... After having thrown the silhouette in, she kicks the door closed with a bang. The interrogation continues. In the same way other the other family members end up being thrown into the "furnace". In the picture, only two young people remain, surrounded by dark shadows. An aptly expressive detail, an unconventional solution that moves the imagination.

In educational performances it is hard to avoid some form of schematic thinking. Let's say that the German army was presented ... in the same way as the Soviet era propaganda posters - and the audience was intimidated by the soldiers' distorted and beastly faces...