A November Day at Canada Water Culture Space
A November Day is the latest offering from puppetry/theatre company Thingumajig. Performance partners Andrew and Kathy Kim met while performing together in a masked carnival and, after a relationship of transatlantic distance (Andrew is from the US, Kathy from Bradford), they united in marriage and creativity. Their fantastic crew of puppet-makers have resulted in some stunning public projects featuring giant puppets (Jellish featured huge, UV-lit jellyfish, paraded around night time streets to DJ accompaniment).
Although the name would suggest that this is a company targeted chiefly at children, the pair actually claim that their projects aim at a very diverse age. That said, despite it being suggested for ages 10+, A November Day feels rather infantile. Produced in collaboration with the West Yorkshire Imperial War museum to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII, the tale pieces together the memories of one soldier. It is a touching story; brothers Reggy and John leave Bradford and end up in no man’s land, where Reggy’s death leaves John with only a stray dog for friendship. But it’s not a gripping or particularly event-filled tale either, which is what a set of such minimalism needs if it’s going to hold anyone’s attention even slightly. The puppets are beautifully made and the puppet-wielding artful but the performers are a constant distraction; they leap around less than gracefully in hush-puppies generating all the sound effects – artillery fire is communicated with falling dustbin lids, impending bombs with whistling. But this on-trend DIY element is without the vital addition of a rich and resounding plot. Comic episodes are tenuously drawn out such as the appearing-disappearing mischievous dog. We feel like toddlers subjected to a game of tedious peek-a-boo, and want to laugh if only to speed up the wooden narrative.
No one could doubt that war-legacy isn’t an issue close to the Kims’ hearts, but the production is so overly sentimental that we feel we are being treated as emotional illiterates, which makes the whole production border on embarrassing. They seem to function best when their stunning puppet sculptors and the community joy that these spectacles generate obscure their personal performance, and this play suggests that that’s just what they should stick too.
For further information about A November Day visit Thingumajig’s website here.