Carolina Performing Arts will present the Handspring Puppet Company’s presentation of Woyzeck on the Highveld, a South-African multimedia fantasy based on an unfinished play by German dramatist Georg Büchner (1813-37), on April 1st and 2nd in Memorial Hall on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. Directed by William Kentridge and designed by Kentridge and Adrian Kohler, Woyzeck on the Highveld is the fourth and final show in Carolina Performing Arts’ critically acclaimed 2011 International Theater Festival, which began with the National Theater of Scotland’s visceral Iraq War play Black Watch on Feb. 9-13 and included Cirque Éloize’s iD on March 1st and 2nd and Ex Machina’s ingenious production of Robert Lepage’s modern fairy tale, The Andersen Project (Le Projet Andersen), on March 17th and 18th.
According to Carolina Performing Arts:
“Against an arresting backdrop of animated projections, spectacular 3/4-size puppets play out Georg Büchner’s famed tale of jealousy and murder in Handspring’s heart-stopping South African multimedia fantasy.
“In this artful adaptation, Woyzeck — a central text in 20th-century theater — weaves a magical spell filled with humor and pathos. Collaborating with William Kentridge, one of the world’s most renowned artists and filmmakers, Handspring Puppet Company first appeared in Chapel Hill in 2005 with Tall Horse, and returns to Memorial Hall on the heels of their London smash hit War Horse.”
In his 1994 New York Times review of Woyzeck on the Highveld, Lawrence Van Gelder wrote: “… History says Johan Christian Woyzeck died long ago, a real man beheaded for a real crime of passion. He stabbed his lover, the widow Woost, to death with a knife…. In his latest incarnation, Woyzeck has found himself a new skin (black), a new homeland (South Africa during apartheid), a new job (servant) and, perhaps most fitting of all for a creature so bedeviled by society, a new medium of expression: he is now a puppet…. [This] arresting multimedia production [features] nearly life-size wooden puppets playing out the tragedy against a backdrop of ominous black-and-white video animation to the accompaniment of haunting African music …. Woyzeck on the Highveld provides an ample display of the power of puppetry…. [It] derives additional power from the eerie animation created by William Kentridge, who also directed and designed the production, which evokes barren landscapes, an impoverished township, a simple home, a crowded dance hall, a mine and the mysteries of the constellations.”
On its website, the Handspring Puppet Company adds:
“[The company] was founded in 1981 by four graduates of the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa. Two of the co-founders, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, continue to run the company. Originally they created shows for children and thereafter works for adult audiences. Arguably one of the greatest puppetry companies in the world, Handspring has since collaborated with a succession of innovative South Africa directors including Malcolm Purkey, Barney Simon, and artist William Kentridge.
“Apart from seasons throughout theatres across South Africa, Handspring has been presented at many international festivals including Edinburgh, the Avignon Festival, the Next Wave Festival at BAM in New York, The African Odyssey Festival at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, Theatre d’ Automne in Paris, Theatre der Welt in Germany, as well as in Hong Kong, Singapore, Adelaide, Zurich, and Bogota.
“The company provides an artistic home and professional base for a core group of performers, designers, theatre artists and technicians who collaborate with them on a project basis. Based in South Africa they continue to explore the boundaries of adult puppet theatre within an African context.”
Carolina Performing Arts presents the Handspring Puppet Company in WOYZECK ON THE HIGHVELD at 8 p.m. April 1 and 2 in Memorial Hall, 114 E. Cameron Ave., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
TICKETS: $20-$30 ($10 students).
BOX OFFICE: 919/843-3333 or https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/tickets/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBgmuicCxX8&feature=player_embedded.
Handspring Puppet Company: http://www.handspringpuppet.co.za/ (official website).
William Kentridge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kentridge (Wikipedia).
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