A ladder to the moon and the power of fantasy
Meridiano Theatre has a promising grip on older children as well as those over 80.
… There is something both wonderfully concrete and at the same time fantastically effervescent about this expedition of the soul. Not least of all when Anna digs deep down into the earth and ends up sticking her head out in China. Here, everything is upside down: pagodas, trees and even the Chinese. “Everyone knows that.”
At the same time as one becomes infected by Anna’s limitless childish common sense, one is also touched by the show’s sad undertone: being left alone and searching for that which is lost. It’s quite an achievement to be able to talk about existential matters through a little puppet that goes around wondering. A ladder to the moon and the power of fantasy. That’s children’s theatre at its best - even if one is a 100 years old.
-- Monna Dithmer, Politiken
The Play Faculty (Legefakultetet)
The few words that crept into my head and onto my notebook where: poetical, beautiful, touching, gentle, enchanting, playful, magical, redemptive and wonderful. Anima is one of those performances that take over where words stop. It’s about loss - the main character, Anna, has lost her beloved dog - and what happens to the soul when someone disappears out of our life. Is the soul a shadow? A light? Is it really important to know? It is a play about keeping those people and things we have loved in our hearts. It made me shed a tear. Despite my love of children’s theatre, that does not happen very often.
With their show, Meridiano Theatre achieves one of arts most noble tasks: to touch our hearts: to make a difference with regard to our understanding of the world. My daughter and I left for the theatre on the wrong foot. We’d argued, she sulked and cried, I had a bad feeling in my stomach. We both hate arguing. As the lights went down and the performance began, we were let into a world full of love. A world filled with the joy of storytelling, aesthetics, light and music. We allowed ourselves to be seduced. When the performance ended some forty minutes later, we were both freed from our argument. Our hearts were lightened. My daughter bubbled over with joy and praised the performance again and again. She gave it one hundred stars.
She saw herself as the main character, Anna. She recognized herself as someone who asks questions, which can be difficult for others to answer and as someone who enjoys playing in order to understand an existence which isn’t always as we wish it to be, but which, nevertheless, ends by making sense. Afterwards, my daughter had a huge spring in her step and exclaimed, “I’m happy because the play made me happy.”
-- Monica Langelund, Legefakultetet
Where does the soul go?
Danish puppet theater, Meridiano, spellbinds the young and the old with “Anima” at the Triennial Ruhr Festival
Most adults don’t know a great deal about death and what happens to the soul. As a rule, they suppress that which they’re afraid of.
This is not the case in “Anima” (latin for soul). Bravely, tenderly, playfully, wittily and poetically a story of life and death and a new beginning is told. This production for 4 to 10 year olds is the highlight of the Triennial. (…)
Meridiano Theatre juggles multi-medially with the children’s curiosity and rivets them, even though Anna does not find an absolute answer to her question.
The path itself is the objective. But without fantasy, no one can travel that path.
-- Dagmar Schwalm, WAZ
A journey in search of the soul - Triennial Ruhr Festival: “Anima”
It’s all about death.
In their puppet show “Anima”, Danish Meridiano Theatre try to give children an understandable answer to this question. Giacomo Ravicchio’s production may be two years old now, but at the Maschinenhaus in Zeche Carl in Essen during the “Youth Triennial”, the show appeared as new as a first performance. (…)
Technically speaking, what goes on in front of and behind the black set design’s window revolutionizes classical puppet theatre. Fascinating pictures, perfect lighting, puppets full of life, paper cuttings, visual effects and a fantastic soundtrack all make a great impression.
Actress, Elise Müller, narrates, performs and spellbinds. She transforms herself into little Anna. “Anima” makes even the most modern media pampered children gawp in amazement.
-- Klaus Stübler, Ruhr Nachrichten
’Grandfather doesn’t know very much about the soul’
So says glove puppet Anna in the beautiful devil-may-care puppet production Anima. Strangely though, Meridiano Theatre seem to know all about how curious children are about the soul.
Sadness is a rare emotion in children’s theatre (…) Meridiano Theatre’s productions however always have a glint of sadness, whether it’s a production for children or for adults. Theatre designer Giacomo Ravicchio’s imagination is full of contrasts, continually setting happiness in sharp relief – with motifs ranging from the very grand down to the very small (...) Here Meridiano present the whole gamut of their ingenious puppet theatre with silhouette puppets and glove puppets and inventive props (…) Children’s natural curiosity provides the dramaturgic driving force (…) The production is carried wonderfully by actor Elise Müller (…) Elise Müller has the calmness of an adult, but still retains the spontaneous wonder of a child. She is present in the now, exactly like Anna. And it’s just this interplay between puppet and puppeteer that shows the subtlety of the production, because the child’s reflections are expressed here as direct questions. And because the children pick up on the fact that Anna is never alone, irrespective of how far she travels. (…)
In addition Per Christensen’s puppets and Poul Arne Kring’s props are so wondrous that the kids spontaneously imagine themselves into this stylised mini-universe. The detail is absolutely incredible (…) right down to the puppet grandfather’s pipe, a character who also appears as a living person through actor Lars Begtrup’s unsentimental portrayal (…)
Meridiano has a very filmic look and just zooming in and out on the puppets against the panoramic images clearly arouses the kids’ curiosity. The feeling of unpredictability is further heightened through the architectonic lighting (…) and an accompanying musical backdrop of jazzy European Song Contest music with touches of mobile phone ringing-tones – both courtesy of multi-artiste Ravicchio. Real talent that is. Exactly like Elise Müller’s silhouette choreography for a pair of beautiful hands which suddenly turn into a moose or a rabbit scratching its nose. This is the kind of creativity that keeps you smiling with Meridiano. And which in turn creates space for – sadness.
-- Children’s Theatre Newspaper, Denmark
“Want to borrow the ladder to your imagination?
Is the moon where dead people go?
Among the huge number of theatre productions on offer during the festival in Ballerup, Meridiano Theatre stood out as one of the very best with yet another highly visual world class production. “Anima” described a little girl’s thoughts about death. Her dog had died and now she wanted very much to find out where it had gone….
Meridiano portrays death here in a marvellous way, where a child’s logic triumphs over both philosophy and religion. For if the dog is in heaven, then you can simply crawl up to the Moon and see it from there. So Anna gets a long ladder. A really, really long ladder.
Theatre director Giacomo Ravicchio here plays with the primitive images of a child, expressed through Per Christensen’s sophisticated hand puppets and Poul Arne Kring’s pure and naive (childlike) silhouettes and ingenious mini-props. Who would have thought for example that you can go back in time just by cycling backwards? And who would have imagined that the Chinese walk upside-down? Elise Müller plays the girl Anna both as puppeteer and as her grown-up self with such respect and affection that both Anna and the audience feel they are being helped along their lonely journey towards death. Calmed and comforted. Because you can always just use a ladder… “
-- Anne Middelboe Christensen, Information
”A new production from Meridiano Theatre, led by the Italian-born director, author, composer, designer – he can do it all - Giacomo Ravicchio. He has come up with an incredibly visual production. It is a show for children between 4 and 11 years old, about death and about a girl who loses her little dog and how she wants so much to know what has actually happened to it now that it is dead. This is a metaphorical production using both puppets and live actors, who comment and chat with the puppets. And it is a journey into a child’s philosophy about existence and life. The images are truly marvellous. Anna has heard that the cleverest people are the Chinese and the Chinese live on the other side of the world. So she starts digging through the sand-pit down to China to find out if they know what has happened to her dog. Fantasies that adults normally don’t dare indulge in… But which children do in their games… It is this kind of purity which the production offers up. That is why I would like to recommend it.”
-- The Culture Guide P2
Dizzying Soul Searching
“In ’Anima’, Meridiano Theatre tell a tale of death through a dazzlingly poetic and humorous puppet show. On three small stages, encircled by a radiant blue light, the play makes this delicate subject accessible for children. Anna’s dog, Thunder, is dead, and even though it was over 100 dog years old, Anna is sad. Her grandfather doesn’t know for sure whether the soul flies up to heaven or not. Anna has to take matters into her own hands if she is to find the dog’s, and maybe also her grandmother’s, soul. So she sets out on one fantastic journey after another. Nobody knows where the souls of the dead go, but everyone has some suggestion as to where she can ask. First, with the help of a garden ladder, she goes all the way up to the moon. Later, Anna digs her way down through the earth to China, where she has to cycle upside-down. Finally, she finds the answer in her own red, thumping heart, where she will carry the memory of her dog, Thunder, with her forever. A tremendously good story-teller and puppeteer bring Anna and the audience safely back after all the dizzying imagery and sensitive excursions into the universe of the dead.
-- Randi Petersen, Børn&Unge
Multi-dimensional, poetic and visually stunning live performance and puppetry’
North Wall Arts Centre,
For forty five minutes last night, a little magic was spangled among a challenging audience of children aged predominantly under ten. Danish theatre company Meridiano’s new production Anima held most transfixed, much to the enjoyment of accompanying adults. The combination of skilful puppetry, an attractive, sympathetic and expressive narrator (Elise Muller), and visual pyrotechnics told the story of a child’s fantastical journey – as windows lit by blue lights opened one by one in the dark space.
The themes of Anima are ambitious: loss, grief, love and death – all too familiar in the process of growing up, but it is the death of her pet dog, Thunder, which touches Anna’s young world. Rather than sad acceptance, Anna wants answers.
‘Where do you go when you die?’, she wonders, and as the moon rises in a huge glowing globe above her, she shines a tiny flashlight into the blackness. It winks back. Searching her miniature world for props, she totters under the weight of the apple tree ladder, until, with a tiny gesture of her arm, the kindly narrator angles its bars to the moon.
Constantly exasperated by the answers she receives from adults, Anna’s self confidence is never dented. After several arduous journeys through space and time among astronauts, ancient philosophers and great civilisations, her inexorable self-belief carries her onwards. Taking up her bicycle, and pedalling furiously, Anna declares (and not for the first time, much to the audience’s delight): ‘Everyone knows that to go backwards in time, all you have to do is pedal backwards. Everybody knows that,’. Meanwhile, she outstrips a supersonic airliner, a sail ship and a chanting slave galley.
Giacomo Ravicchio’s story has much gentle humour and well-paced refrains which carry the story effortlessly along. While her destinations are far flung, it is the familiar, everyday things known to every child which help to get her there, and she is regularly tucked up in the comfort of her truckle bed before she opens her eyes to a new adventure. And of course, what do adults know?
Visually, the performance is a delight, from dancing butterflies to shadow puppetry, juggling and magic tricks. The beauty of an inverted Chinese landscape, where Anna hung from the roof of the world, was mirrored in her safe return to her upstanding Danish farmstead. The animated silhouettes of a happy girl playing with her grandfather’s gift of new puppy reminded us that the mesmerising kaleidoscopic spinning of Anna’s bicycle wheel had had us all entranced.
-- Alison Boulton, Daily Info Oxford