Boulder @ Pleasance Courtyard

Half-A-String's new show is a puppet-powered re-imagining of the Sisyphus story

Review by Dominic Corr | 15 Aug 2019
  • Boulder @ Pleasance Courtyard

This new show from Half-A-String is a re-imagining of the story of Sisyphus, an ancient king who succeeds in outwitting the goddess Persephone. His punishment – to roll a boulder up a steep hill, only for enchantments to toss it back down before reaching the top.

Primarily we become accustomed to two puppets – a full scale model which attaches onto the performer, allowing fluidity to rival a live actor, and a smaller-scale puppet. As the boulder unravels, the bronze sides lift to become the mountainside scaled by the smaller Kuruma rod puppet.

Bruising, breaking and shattering, our laughs fade as sympathies lie with the puppet Sisyphus. The measure of emotion put out by this creation is remarkable, the angular design casting shadows on the face and allowing for feelings of sorrow or smirk.

Concocting a superb balance of animation styles, Half-A-String goes beyond puppetry. Charming illustrations open the piece, breaking up scenes for transitions as the full-scale puppet is set in place. Customary with storytelling, a narrative structure consists of songs over the actions of the puppeteers. Accompanying is a live cello, with a series of atmospheric songs, reminiscent of heralds sharing stories. 

In a playful turn of events, this Sisyphus’ quest to roll the boulder seems to be unrelating to the original Grecian tale – rather than punishment, this is self-inflicted. As such, it draws profound connections to our own seemingly endless tasks. Despite his grumbling exterior and our sadistic laughter in his failures, we wish Sisyphus to succeed.

Boulder, Pleasance Courtyard (Forth), until 17 Aug, 12.10pm, £9.50-12