Manipulate Part III: Transmographiles – Traverse Theatre

Last Friday night, I was delighted to attend three consecutive shows at the Manipulate puppetry festival, hosted at the Traverse Theatre.

For the final show of the evening, I returned to the depths of T2 and was treated to a mesmerising table top hand-puppetry piece: Transmographiles, created by Scottish company Hopeful Monster and performed by Ella Mackay, Eti Meacock, and Bori Mezö.

The little box theatre is plunged into darkness. The performers, dressed in all back with their faces covered, are almost invisible, our focus is entirely on their hands and the creatures they create with them. We are under the sea. Michael Hyland’s delicate yet surging score reverberates through the ‘water’ as cupped hands present a plant pod growing from the seabed. The pod opens to allow molecules to escape into the water; they disperse, and create life…

In the deep darkness, we are mesmerised by the intricacies of the performance and by the endless stream characterful creatures we encounter. Here, we meet jellyfish, crabs, anemones, and shoals of fish, before emerging onto the shore. There, we find a delightful bird and her baby, a satisfyingly unpleasant snake, some greedy goats, friendly moles, and massive frog. The animals, play, hunt, eat, sleep, and learn to fly. There is no dialogue – all humour and tenderness is conveyed effortlessly by the performers hands, a couple of mini plastic hands and some googly eyes.

There is an intensity throughout the piece despite the lightness of the storylines, so much so that 30 minutes disappeared in a flash. The hands moved with such flow and unity that I quickly forgot that they were attached to three performers.

To conclude the piece, we revisited each of our new friends to see their loose ends tied; the baby bird learnt to fly, the goat gets his apples, the moles outwit their predator and eventually, we return to the depths of the sea. The molecules return to their plant pod in the most satisfying of endings.

Transmographiles is a completely gorgeous, highly skilled work, and joy to watch.


PHOTO: Traverse Theatre

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Laura Hounsell

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