Singapore Fringe Festival 2023
Django in Pain is an uplifting tabletop puppet show that deals with depression and suicide ideation in a way that is at the same time deeply personal and universal. The main characters, a Playwright and Django—a puppet loosely inspired by musician Django Reinhardt—are both struggling with different levels of depression. Hopefully the playwright will find a way to give Django’s journey a happy ending. Or is it the other way around?
Django is very sad. Django, a figurative puppet of a man pensively walks through a forest to and from his home. Django plays his guitar and ventures out to the forest again, always being interrupted by a stray animal or two and life continues…through his depression.
A playwright is writing his story at his laptop interspersed with short scenes with Django on his daily travail. The playwright within the story is Antonio Vega – playing himself on screen in dialogue with an appropriately scruffy, provocative, yet kind bird puppet. Vega is also the narrator and voices the dialogue and his calm resonant voice is perfect for each of these aspects and is very compelling.
Co-created and performed by Ana Graham and Vega, they both do everything else – Graham is also film editor, director of photography and sound design and Vega is also set & puppet designer.
Django in Pain is made from a labour of love and necessity to remain creative – and sane – during lockdown. The result is an exquisite show. Graham and Vega do all the puppet manipulation and are seen on screen in dark clothing similar to the Japanese Bunraku theatre style – but in their own way. Every puppet is different in its style and structure, which is so endearing when we find out how this entire show came about. Found objects and household items were converted into object and table top puppets and simple marionettes during early lockdown, this brings a charm and the rawness adds to the story and Django’s plight. Inspired by the musician Django Reinhardt and Vega’s own mind while being in lockdown, Django in Pain is truly what it sets out to be, an uplifting story about depression. The story is sincere, warm, witty, meaningful and powerful.
The play comprises a series of well thought out and beautifully structured short scenes, each one preceded by a brief title on the screen. All the characters in the play are puppets, which is filmed and edited by Graham on a cellphone. The imagery of each scene is beautifully created sometimes in shadow play and other times, figures and animals that pop out of nowhere and bring humour and humanity to Django’s story.
The music is a very strong part of this production and plays vibrantly accompanying many of the scenes. Cristobal Maryan is composer, music performer and sound mixer of the music that brings so much to the atmosphere, mood and sensitivity of this story.
Django in Pain is a poignant, charming and meaningful play that is imaginative and vibrant in vision and message.