What gems can lie hiding in morning programming. Though titled Backup, it may as well be called Pick-Me-Up, so charming are its brunchtime 30 minutes. Be transported to a twinkling Arctic vignette, as a hardy trio of explorers traverse snowdrifts and frosted peaks in the middle of the night.
Belgian puppeteers Chaliwaté Compagnie (Sicaire Durieux, Sandrine Heyraud), along with Focus Company (Julie Tenret), dub themselves “théâtre gestuel” (gestural theatre). This goes some way to capture the less-is-more characterisation that comes from their minute, deft movements, as they present this sweet and (mostly) wordless tale.
The three performers interact in a breathtaking dance of character (reporters on the expedition), scenery (a van, a mountain, an ice floe) and effects (blizzards, bumpy terrain), so tight, efficient and inventive it becomes almost comical. There’s something of Wes Anderson in its straight-faced humour and cute, postcard-like staging.
And like much other trailblazing contemporary puppetry—particularly Toby Sedgwick’s fêted Warhorse choreography—Backup exploits that benign doublethink of seeing and ignoring the manipulators onstage, permitting wonder at both the story being evoked and the stagecraft employed to do so.
Part of an as-yet unfinished larger production called Dimanche slated for November 2019, Backup is simultaneously let down, and enhanced, by its brevity. You’ll want nothing more than to stay on that wistful tundra with those adventurers, especially after the third act – but the show’s greatest strength is its economical storytelling. Start off your day with this petit-déj – it’ll be more nourishing than any big-budget spectacle this August.