The play is very atmospheric. From the dry ice "steam" of the departing train, the scenes are conjured up with clever use of lighting, sounds and smells (of cigar smoke and mothballs). While Malouth flicks through a pile of old photos we hear mingled in with the theme sounds of laughter, a brass band, the sea.
Joshka Malouth entered the stage with his back to the audience as he dragged a heavy case, and this gave a glimpse of the uncompromising nature of the piece. It wasn't going to be hurried, and it was going to challenge most people's preconceptions of what puppet shows are. It was not immensely suitable for children, particularly the scene where the small boy creeps up the stairs to spy on his parents having sex. It did not involve puppets with strings, and it didn't use the fact the characters were puppets to distance the audience from the performance. In fact when one puppet performed a trick which involved sticking huge pins in his legs there was wincing among the watchers.
The characters from Malouth's life were portrayed with puppets and props. One puppeteer in black and Malouth himself operated all of them and the movements were superb - giving a real sense of heaviness and moving supple-ly and naturally. Malouth's great love was simply an empty dress, and that was all you needed to evoke her character. The King of Pain whimpered very well and the Ringmaster directed operations and cracked his whip.
In some places the moods seemed out of kilter with each other, as the slapstick comedy and amazing magic tricks were on a different level to the despair and regret, and did not balance them out. And because of the story coming out of different suitcases, the plot seemed a bit compartmentalised too. I felt that the storyline did not match up to the sophistication of the puppets. It was very wide-ranging, including love, infidelity and the war, but the elements were disjointed, and there was some confusion in my party as to whether the small boy represented Malouth's own childhood or his son.
Having said that, the threads of past and present were drawn together neatly as Malouth struggled to undo the chains of memory and the circus, and escape from his own locked box. It's worth seeing, particularly for its ability to conjure up people and scenes with a minimum of props. But be prepared it's something that will need time for thought / discussion afterwards before it makes sense, particularly if you've got children with you!