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Nothing to sniff at

by admin September 28, 2010

Last year, Pavla Mano and her husband Csaba Raduly were at a loss as how to convince their two-year-old son Philip to eat his meals. Stumped, they resorted to creating figures out of Kleenex. “We were trying to be distracting so that he would forget that he doesn’t want to eat,” explained Mano.

The trick seemed to work, because Philip started munching.

And his parents noticed that the Kleenex figures had potential. Since Mano is a trained puppeteer and Raduly is an actor, the idea of entertaining someone with nothing more than a few Kleenex tissues soon evolved into their latest collaboration, a puppet show named Without Title – a name as blank as a fresh piece of tissue.

If the premise of a puppet show about Kleenex leaves you guessing, Mano admitted that the story is difficult to describe.

“There is not really a story. The way the performance is… everyone can get [the] story, but I can’t tell you this happens and that happens.” What she can reveal is the following about the main personage: “A creature that just starts being, starts existing, meets other creatures and they’re trying to communicate, they’re trying to overcome each other,” she said. “It’s like a journey through … life.”

It took several months of improvisation and structuring for the ideas behind Without Title to percolate and fully form into a 45-minute long puppet piece for adults. Since the show’s premiere in March, the couple has brought to the show to an international puppet show in Jonquière, and they will soon be staging it in Barcelona.

Mano’s background with puppets goes back awhile. Her theatre company, Puzzle Theatre, was founded in Bulgaria in 1996, where she trained as puppeteer, and it made the jump to Montreal when she and her co-founders moved to Canada in 2004. Mano planned on coming with her boyfriend, but he backed out. She came anyway, and stayed: “I like this colourful city.”

Puzzle Theatre began running versions of the projects they had staged in Bulgaria, some of which were geared towards young children and families. Without Title, however is a conceived-in-Canada project for adults.

Note to penniless aspiring theatre acolytes: Mano estimates that with her props being one light, one table and one box of Kleenex (30 sheets for each of the four shows) for the whole Montreal run, her props budget totals at $25. In addition, her and Raduly considered themselves volunteer performers, and they put on the show without grants. (“It’s easier.”)

As for the anonymous moniker, Without Title, Mano likens it to artists’ untitled paintings. The idea behind the title stems from Mano wanting the audience to have a “virgin” mind: “It’s Without Title because we didn’t want to give a direction to the audience what to think about.”

What we do know is that it features Kleenex. But Mano promises more.

“It’s about a lot of things. You have to see it, and you will find out.”

Without Title is being performed Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at Studio-Theatre l’Illusion, at 783 de Bienville Rd., near Mont-Royal metro. Tickets are $10 for students and theatre professionals, $15 for mere mortals.

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