Stephen Mottram’s Animata, In Suspension

Review in Issue 12-1 | Spring 2000

In Suspension is made up of six short pieces for puppets and music. These pieces employ a range of styles and techniques but are thematically linked by an aim to challenge ways in which we read the movement of bodies in space. The performance constantly challenges perceptions of how movement coheres to make meaning. For me, the simplest pieces are the most effective. In ‘Nobody’, for example, Mottram operates a marionette consisting only of head, hands and feet, engaging and disengaging from the absent body, so that it is possible to mentally construct any number of different corporeal shapes and personalities for the puppet.

Where he focuses on the pure dynamics of movement, Mottram's considerable skill as a puppeteer draws the audience into the illusion of reality, creating a sense of joyful wonder when the puppets then exceed human capabilities – moving from dance into flight, from reality to dream. Straightforward activities gain a magical quality, as in ‘Animata', where a trapeze-artist marionette flies through the air with remarkable freedom and grace. Those pieces with a greater emphasis on character or narrative are less convincing, however. Mottram's desire to make a point can seem heavy-handed and his exhibition of skill almost becomes a display of repetitive puppeteering 'tricks'.

These less engaging moments are redeemed by a gentle humour, often brought out by the dialogue between sound and movement. The music, much of which was composed for the production by Glynn Perrin, produces alternately suggestive or surprising conjunctions and I was impressed throughout by its subtle effectiveness.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 2000

This article in the magazine

Issue 12-1
p. 22