Why puppets are scary
Guest Post: A play set in Auschwtiz you say? Surely this will be some worthy work that we will all rub our chins, wring our hands and solemnly agree is an important work. But it’s with puppets? And with no script?
Kamp has all the potential to be the longest hour of your life, but instead it is an ambitious and shockingly good show. Hotel Modern have built a scale version of Auschwitz, in which they manipulate hordes of tiny figures, sometimes as mass groups, often as individual models, shuffling about the stage, digging ceaselessly in the ground, or shoveling bodies into ovens. All of this is filmed using handheld cameras and projected on to a screen. This is horrifying and terrifingly effective stuff. Sitting in the pitch black of the Samuel Beckett Theater, I was afraid to breathe in sharply so thick was the atmosphere. Several years ago, I went to Auschwitz and one of the main impressions it left was the scale of the construction and the horrifying efficiency and precision with which it was built: row after row of perfectly aligned barbed-wire fences, shack after shack stretching as far as the horizon. With its thousands of tiny figurines, and low angled camera lines, Kamp recreates this to startlingly good effect.
There is a chillingly effective soundtrack and I still haven’t worked out how they worked the sound effects. (One continuous soundtrack that they synched up the action to? Dozens of music cues operated off stage?) After the performance, the cast invited the audience down into their Auschwitz recreation to see it up close, but I didn’t take a wander on to the stage – I wanted this theatrical sleight of hand to remain something of a mystery. A deeply moving and visceral hour that you feel in the pit of your stomach. By Laurence Mackin