Puppets in a Class of their Own

Review of "Sand Between Your Toes" in Telemarksavisa, a regional newspaper in Telemark County, 19.06.2004

Porsgrunn International Theatre Festival 2004

The puppet theatre “Sand between your toes” takes its audience on a journey through the last century. And it is done alternately with humour, warmth and deep seriousness.

With the life of the Jewish lady Hetty as a red line, we get small peeps into the everyday life of the 20th century. Hetty was born just after the shot in Sarajevo, and died just before September 11th 2001. The puppet theatre unfolds in Hetty's curiosity cabinet. And as new drawers are opened, the story moves forward.
The two actors, Jaap den Hertog and Bjørn Myrholdt, are brilliant with their lines – one second a sobbing lady, the next a rumbling man’s voice. They go in and out of characters and moods in a flash. At times so quickly that the audience almost cannot keep up.

In an attentive way, small breaks from the puppet theatre have been plotted in, where the actors are directing questions to the audience. The children in the first row answered willingly. Soon the older part of the audience thawed up as well, and great interaction arose between the stage and the audience.

Such closeness with the viewers makes the theatre experience optimal. You cannot escape the seriousness that smoulders underneath the humour and the jokes. With the 20th century as a base, World War II is an unavoidable theme. We have of course all read pages and pages on the eradication of Jews.

But when all except one of the puppets up there on the stage are eradicated, it gives us a new reminder of the cruelty in the world. A theme that is just as current today as it was 60 years ago. And in an unexplainable way the two actors manage to get this message out, without making it commonplace. You are left pondering there in the semi-darkness for a bit, but not for too long – soon there will be another joke, and the laughter pours out through the hall once again.

A secret
For what is more titillating than going through other peoples lives? Hetty's life is revealed, but without her being stripped. With alternately humour and seriousness, she is portrayed as an open-minded lady, despite the world around her falling apart.

Towards the end Hetty is drawing her last breaths, and Jaap den Hertog concludes with telling us a secret: Hetty was his “aunty”. When he was young he visited her one summer, and the experiences from that summer are glued to his mind.

Maybe it is because of this relationship that you find so much warmth in this piece. I don’t know, but you have all good reasons to get hold of a ticket for the next time “Sand between your toes” is being shown. And there is no reason for leaving the children at home – the play is for anyone ten years and over.

Theatre: The Puppet Theatre
“Sand between your toes”
Where: The Old Post Office
Script: Jaap den Hertog and Lasse Åkerlund
Contributors: Teater Fusentast
With Jaap den Hertog and Bjørn Myrholdt