Sunday, March 6, 2016

That new French magic from CIE 14:20

Shadow puppeteer Philippe Beau and his avian friend
(photo courtesy of CIE 14:20) 

What quiets a theater packed with boisterous kids and parents? Phillippe Beau's shadow puppetry, for one thing. I speak with confidence, having heard that with my own ears at French Institute Alliance Française's Florence Gould Hall, one of several city hosts for the new Tilt Kids Festival. Launched by FIAF and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the festival offers a wealth of family-oriented arts, ideas and fun at venues like BAM Fisher, The Invisible Dog Art Center and, of course, Time Square's New Victory Theater. It runs through April 3.

Accompanied by the wonderful pianist Madeleine Cazenave, Beau performed a segment in the magie nouvelle (new magic) production, Cabaret de Magie Nouvelle, presented by CIE 14:20. The Parisian troupe also featured renowned sleight-of-hand magician, Yann Frisch. If you missed these two masterful performers, I'm sad for you. Don't let that happen again.

My attempt to recreate Beau's tricks in order to describe them better for you has proven futile (and might require hand splints). Let me just say that this digital magician does not only pull a rabbit out of the "hat" of his imagination but produces a complete menagerie of animals--a stag with magnificent antlers; a snarling wolf; a galloping, rearing horse; a cat with swishing tail, licking its fur and scratching its ear. A bird feeds its young, later teaching the fledgling how to fly. A lover plants a kiss on a shyer, somewhat startled partner. Even the Devil himself makes an appearance. I'm not sure why but, hey, if you can form a Devil shape with your shadow puppetry, why the hell not?

If your notion of shadow puppetry has always been something amateurish and cheesy, please, get over yourself. This is new shadow puppetry. (I might as well follow the French trend of "new circus," "new magic," "new whatever.") As practiced by Beau, it is a razor-sharp storytelling skill and damned awesome.

Cabaret de Magie Nouvelle has closed, but there's much more Tilt up ahead through April 3, from the visual to the gastronomic arts, co-curated by Lili Chopra (FIAF) and Violaine Huisman (BAM). For information on the festival's lineup, click here.

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