Puppetry meets cinema in Ramshackle Theatre’s latest touring production.
“Although we work with simple materials, there is complexity in the concept of the show and a great deal of time put into unconventional storytelling,” says Ramshackle Theatre’s Brian Fidler. As founder and artistic director of the Yukon-based theatre company, Fidler has embraced a simplistic approach to storytelling that is both inspiring in its candor and visually engaging through its eccentric nature.
“I began creating puppet shows that could be carried around in a suitcase,” he said. “I not only like this smaller aesthetic, but it allowed me to be very portable and tour at a low cost. Working on this small scale, the shows were only able to play to smaller audiences.”
Sci-Fi Double Feature, the company’s latest production to tour the country, is a big step up from Ramshackle’s modest roots, incorporating film, an original score and projections to aid in its delivery.
“I’ve always been interested in film and the incorporation of film into live theatre, and was looking for ways to introduce video and projections,” said Fidler. “I wanted to use live projections so that I could continue to work in small scale but play to larger audiences.”
Using cardboard characters and hand painted-props, Fidler’s minimal form of storytelling now plays out as part live action feature film thanks to the ingenuity of collaborator, filmmaker and designer Edward Westerhuis and composer/sound designer Jordy Walker. Sci-Fi Double Feature is the result of this unique collaboration.
“For me, the process of developing this show has allowed us to learn from each other’s practice,” said Westerhuis. “We come from very different art traditions, Brian from live theatre and myself from cinema, so we are always perceiving from different points of view. As a result, we are constantly pushing each other to re-think our ideas and reach for something new.”
Through countless hours spent exploring how theatre and cinema can work together, Fidler and Westerhuis have developed a shared aesthetic and language that guides their creative process.
“While we may have started very differently,” said Westerhuis, “we now share a fused art practice.
“Sci-Fi Double Feature is a mash-up of puppetry and live video performance,” he said. “Audiences are invited to explore entire worlds built of cardboard, partake in wild adventures with aliens and dinosaurs, and walk away inspired to make their own creations.”
The show is a throwback to early cinema and the birth of special effects, with Fidler exploring the creative potential of hot glue, cardboard and magnets to create a unique world in which his characters can exists and excel in all their corrugated splendor.
“I had been watching a lot of science fiction B-movies from the 50’s and 60’s and was curious about the simple puppetry and animation of the spaceships before the days of CGI,” he said. “I was thinking about what it must have looked like on the set of a B-movie with puppeteers moving the objects and creatures around.
“That’s how the camera enters into the show,” he said. “It’s like the audience is watching a B-movie being created and filmed while at the same time they can watch the completed movie on the screen over our heads. It allows us to still work in small scale but the projections make the show visible in larger theatres.”
A large part of what makes Sci-Fi Double Feature such a unique experience is that by design, the show pulls back the curtain and allows the audience to either engage directly with the on stage action or watch the story play out on the big screen.
“The dual experience of simultaneously watching a show live on stage and the final film on the screen above offers audiences lots to look at,” said Westerhuis. “So whether you enjoy the practical bits of figuring out how certain puppets work, or if you want to jump headlong into the stories, there’s something for everyone.”
“It’s very playful,” said Fidler. “It’s a bit ridiculous and there is the chance of us making a mistake in full view of the audience which is part of the fun.”
Sci-Fi Double Feature | Imperial Theatre | April 4, 2016 | 7:30 PM | Buy Tickets
Sci-Fi Double Feature | Fredericton Playhouse | April 9, 2016 | 7:30 PM | Buy Tickets