Trestle Theatre Company and Kherson Puppet Theatre of Ukraine, Beggars Belief

Review in Issue 10-2 | Summer 1998

Another cross-cultural collaboration bears fruit for Trestle Theatre Company with Beggars Belief. Three years of work with Ukraine-based company Kherson Puppet Theatre has produced a fairy tale both rich in texture and plentiful in humour.

Imagine yourself inside the medieval paintings of Breugel. The scene is set for the story of Ezra and Vlad, two blind puppeteers whose sight has been destroyed by order of a wicked town mayor. As the blind protagonists groan and stumble through their days, a tragic and magical tale hilariously unfolds. Puppets come to life and humans are exposed as puppets in the course of the show.

In the meantime, Ezra and Vlad are the characters in their own autobiographical puppet show. Beggars Belief seamlessly weaves together two separate narrative threads, jumping back and forth in time as it goes. Representation and reality, past and present, finally coincide towards the end when the mayor is confronted with his own puppet image. The play’s telescopic perspective is fully revealed when the set is manipulated, using different sized versions of the same scene, to ingeniously transform puppetry into real life action.

The use of half-masks and an invented language contribute to a very physical performance style. Guttural exclamations with a Slavic flavour, of which the audience soon seem to understand every word, bounce across the stage. There is some inspired mask work and well-developed ensemble ideas. Watch out for the scene where Ezra and Vlad push their cart down a hill; as it careers out of control, the havoc it leaves in its wake is hilarious.

An intriguing exploration of different visual perspectives and levels of narrative, Beggars Belief is a dark tale rendered luminous through humour and invention.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-2
p. 21