Joni-Rae Carrack
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Some thoughts and that

Inspiration #1 - Shadowed Stories - Manual Cinema

The Edinburgh Festival seems like a bloody blur looking back now that we have entered October (and it's actually starting to get chilly), and I still can't quite believe I was there for the month. It was the first time I managed to go to the festival for more than a few days and not sleeping on a strangers kitchen floor.

I performed for the first 8 days, tech'd a show everyday and saw a huge variety of things, from theatre, to spoken word to folk music (I even was volunteered to be the audience participant for From the Mouths of Gods by The Flanagan Collective and had to pretend I didn't know my friend Tom in the show as not to spoil it for everyone else)

One thing that I'm very proud of is that I didn't see anything bad. Pretty much everything I saw, blew my mind and made me feel like a lazy artist. Mixing inspiration with some uncontrollable self-deprecating nature will hopefully lead to some motivation to challenge oneself as a maker.

So, I thought I'd share some of this inspiration in hope that more people will track down the artists work and so I can process what exactly it was that made my heart sing.

Let's get down to it with probably a top 3 of favourite things from the Fringe

Ada/Ava by Manuel Cinema


Manuel Cinema is a Chicago-based shadow puppet company who had never performed in the UK before - and I really hope this isn't their last time.


Ada/Ava is a simple story, one of loss, grief and healing. However, what is truly impressive is how they make the story.


The company use shadow puppetry and effects created through over head projectors which are projected onto a screen, which is being filmed from the other side. This image is then projected onto a screen above them available for all the audience to see. They are joined by two musicians and someone who I think was doing the sound effects. That is all. 

What the audience are treated to is, as the company's name suggests, is filmic. The projections cut from one angle to another so quickly, your brain can't quite grasp that what you're seeing hasn't been conjured with some clever real-time editing on a computer, or by an editor cutting between projection feeds. Everything is done with a closely choreographed group of puppeteers and four projectors.

I thought I had done my fair share of OHP experimentations, overlapping two projections, using acetate and objects for texture, using colour to contrast with the solid black of the puppets, luring objects and puppets by bringing them closer to the lens. What I hadn't done was finding a way of combining and blending these techniques together so brilliantly, like these guys have. Their characters, scenery, weather and written words are brought together to create a real world where the unreal can happen. It feels grounded and magical all at the same time. The elements of horror feel horrific. 

Even knowing the techniques they used didn't take away the wonder and awe of these guys. If anything it made it even more spectacular.

It makes me want to push further what I already know and see how far it can take me.I mean it would help if I had more hands. Maybe I just need to make more shadow puppet friends. \


Things to learn from Manual Cinema?


Their dedication to their craft is astounding, they've really honed in on what makes shadow puppetry work, the tricks, the illusions and how they blend seamlessly everything together.

The way they can tell a story without words and through rich imagery.

Their use of colour

The way, as a company, they are happy to share not just their work but how they make it. From the way they compose their stage so everyone can see the performance behind the film projected above them to their invitation to come on stage, to ask questions and meet the puppets.

It's the kind of work that made me search for my OHP and really think how I could bring something richer, technically and creatively to my own work. It makes me want to make and find stories.


That's inspiration.


Maybe I just need to make more shadow puppet friends. 

And the musician we had a chat with said that this was an example of one of their smaller shows. They've made shows with 12 OHPs. The most I've ever had in my possession was two so I'm a bit speechless with WHAT they could achieve with those.

I'd love to see it so I hope they come back next year. 

If you need anymore convincing (and have a spare 15 minutes on in your Monday), I recommend you have a little gander at The Forger, a collaboration between them and the New York Times, posted on Oct 2nd. It's really heart-breaking stuff.


Joni-Rae Carrack