Review: Manipulate Festival #14

It was perhaps inevitable that this year’s Manipulate Festival would be dominated by an overarching theme of isolation, given our global circumstances, and so it has been this far.

Israeli performer Ariel Doron explores the plight of a lonely man self- isolating, who orders a mysterious package containing ‘ a friend’- in this case, a disembodied hand- in Unboxed. A massively charismatic puppeteer, Doron treats the hand like a separate entity with the creepy disposition of a children’s TV presenter, filtered through the unsettling ouevre of Jan Svankmajer.

After treating said hand like a shiny new toy, he becomes locked in conflict with the object, when it becomes oddly independent. A cunning, hilarious masterclass in physical theatre with twists, the wildly engaging Doron really recalibrates the drunken impulse buy from eBay at 3 am to absurdist extremes.

Also unravelling in spectacular style is the narrator in Ballad Of The Crone. Leonor Estrada Francke, a Peruvian artist based in Glasgow, portrays a woman stuck at her kitchen table, missing her mother and longing for connectivity.

With chopped up soundscapes; spectral dancing figures and some disturbing claymation, the piece is a little unwieldy at times, but Francke is a fine storyteller, re-moulding and re-shaping folklore like an elegant bouffon. You’ll never crack eggs in quite the same way again.

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