Edinburgh Fringe 2012
The Fantasist mixes puppetry and physical theatre to explore the mental illness of a young woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. We follow her relapses, watching as figures appear and objects come to life. The piece allows the audience to begin to grasp just how it feels to have such hallucinations and to consequently be unable to decipher what is real from what is not.
A young artist has been institutionalised and is unable to paint unless a strange seductive figure appears. He is like a sinister guardian muse, watching over her, inspiring her and yet preventing her recovery.
As well as being obviously traumatic for the individual, bipolar disorder can equally affect those close to the sufferer – thus, the more it is discussed and appreciated the better we can make the lives of those affected by it more bearable. By exploring one case in The Fantasist, Theatre Témon take another step in allowing the disorder to be come further understood by the public.
The leading actress Julia Yevnine is supported by Catherine Gerrard and Julia Corrêa, who alternate between nurse, friend and puppeteers. All three are accomplished and talented performers and their easy collaboration and communication is obvious. But, it is the puppets who really make this show. Some are fully made, others are just heads, another is a simple mannequin doll. But, I feel, the most effective are the simple items – a stool, a lamp, a paint box – these are also brought to life beautifully. As with all puppetry one must relax, see the space as whole and focus on the puppet not the puppeteer, sometimes this can be impossible if the items are handled badly but The Fantasist shows us puppetry at its most inventive.
Although perhaps the emotional relationship between the audience and the protagonist could have been strengthened this did allow a certain amount of objectivity, no bad thing when coming to terms with such an intense subject. Overall the piece was visually captivating, a joy to behold and a show I have since recommended to everyone.