“A Total Spectacle but a Divided One”

Redefining Character in Handspring Puppet Company’s Or You Could Kiss Me

Authored by: Dawn Tracey Brandes

The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance

Print publication date:  July  2014
Online publication date:  July  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415705400
eBook ISBN: 9781315850115
Adobe ISBN: 9781317911722


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In 2010, fresh from the sweeping success of War Horse, the National Theatre of London and Handspring Puppet Company from Cape Town, South Africa, teamed up again to produce a new work for actors and puppets entitled Or You Could Kiss Me. Unlike War Horse, an epic drama about a boy and his horse during World War I, Or You Could Kiss Me told an intimate story on a more human scale. As Handspring’s artistic director Adrian Kohler wrote in the program for the play’s premiere at the National Theatre, “The territory we now wished to further explore, was the puppet as human in a naturalistic piece devoid of fantasy. Could a puppet handle this task? Would the audience ask whether this could have been done more simply with actors?” (cited in Bartlett 2010: 11) In other words, what can puppetry bring to a human narrative? In this chapter, I will argue that the puppetry in Or You Could Kiss Me enables a distinctly postmodern approach to subjectivity that complements and complicates the quest for self-understanding explored in the narrative. By expanding the notion of character to encompass actors, puppeteers, and puppets, the play stages a simultaneous unity and fracture between various fragments of the same character, emphasizing the instability of the self without deconstructing it altogether.

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