Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Lula del Ray by Manual Cinema

Manual Cinema

Genre: Music, Puppetry, Theatre

Venue: Underbelly


Low Down

“From the company that brought you Ada/Ava (total sell-out Edinburgh 2016), hit of the Fringe and critically acclaimed Manual Cinema return with their follow up, Lula del Ray. Told through a live-collage mix of shadow puppets and actors with live music, this show is a mythic reinvention of the classic coming of age story.”


The moon landing! Action and voiceover about this wonderful historic event plays on a large screen. It’s the opening scene of the show Lula del Ray. Manual Cinema is a company that produces just that – cinematic storytelling literally made by hand live – by puppeteers. They tell their stories by creating shadow puppets, which are fascinating.

The story is about a young woman, Lula who is happy to spend time with her mother and they also share a special interest in the moon and rockets. However, they live in a remote area in the American Southwest and she longs for more excitement, so she leaves her home for the big city, in search of adventures.

What is interesting and important to know about the company is the unique way that Lula del Ray is created. None of the imagery and visuals in this show is pre-recorded or on film, so drawings, transparencies with images, cut out figures, and live action is produced on stage in front of the audience – and then cleverly projected on the large screen above them.

Therefore, watching a show by this company from Chicago means that you see double! You can watch how the four accomplished puppeteers (Drew Dir, Sam Deutsch, Sarah Fornace and Julia Miller) act, coordinate images and make the show happen – from a back stage perspective – and you can also watch the complete visual story on the screen.

Told without words, the images, actors and mood are supported by wonderful original music played live by three musicians Maren Celest, Michael Hilger and Alex Ellsworth. The original score and sound design by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman. The music is a significant part of the storytelling and ranges from soulful, pensive, mysterious, expansive to upbeat moods, which complement the visual feast and adds depth, texture and atmosphere to the story.

Another fascinating thing about this show is that the images are projected onto a screen on stage by three old school overhead projectors. Live actor puppeteers are onstage with props and other characters in their scenes in silhouette shadows. It’s enthralling to see these elements sharing the stage. Among the several action scenes one example is when the actor playing Lula has to run down a rudimentary flight of stairs, the steps and rails are projected in shadow and she has do stand in one place and act physically as if she is actually holding the rails and descending the steps rapidly. The miming and physical acting in this show requires the puppeteers to be skilled in several techniques, which is very impressive.

Timing is of the essence in this show, where the transitions between scenes are seamless and magical. The puppeteers need to be sensitive to the story and characters so that everything is in its place at the right time. The story is nuanced and has emotional depth. Lula del Ray by Manual Cinema is creative, it’s innovative, it’s moving, it’s beautiful and it is art!