‘The story line was so clear and potent in imagery.‘ explains Julie Taymor. ‘that every time we tried bringing in English it brought the entire experience down to a mundane level. Even if certain areas are slightly vague or open to question. it allows the audience to make those leaps and connections.‘
One particular trick that Taymor uses is to combine live actors with the puppets at strategic moments. The central character. Juan Darien. for example. goes from being a puppet jaguar cub to a simple puppet baby and then. as he gets older. to a Bunraku puppet manipulated by three people. It is only on the death of his mother that he becomes a human actor. ‘The impact of denying the audience a human face all that time. she explains. ‘means that the humanity is even greater and there is meaning to it. There is meaning in the medium. That I find extremely explosive and powerful.‘
And puppets are there also to be inhuman. to give that traditional unfeeling callousness and slapstick cartoon cruelty of a Mr Punch. ‘It is fascinating how violent and graphic puppetry is.‘ says Taymor. ‘We have imagery in Juan [)arien that is not offensive. but would be if you did it with live actors. Puppetry has always been used just like the clown or the fool as a distancing device so that you can say things about social difficulties that need to be expressed. Punch rips offthe head ofJudy. throws the baby out ofthe window and you laugh at it -‘ it‘s a tension release. We have some wonderfully comic sexual things that go on. yet no one feels they‘re offensive.‘
So far the Festival Box Office has had no calls from anyone called Fo. but they think they might have had a John Paul on the line'.
Juan Dane/1 (International Festival) illuste Theatre ()fNeit' York. Royal Lyceum Theatre. .325 5756, 2028.41134. various times. [4.50 [8.50.
Above: the ‘Plague Puppets’ sequehce from Juan Darlen and. left: the teacher truth a bookish haircut.
The List 24 — 30 August l‘)‘)() 7