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Dive into a literary classic with Plexus Polaire’s Moby Dick at SIFA 2024

2 mins read
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The Plexus Polaire crew sat together on the dimly lit stage in silence, contemplating the theatre company’s future.

It was early 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic had just hit, forcing the global arts scene to a halt. The French-Norwegian theatre group had been in the midst of preparing for its latest project, Moby Dick, a retelling of Herman Melville’s classic about ship captain Ahab’s quest for vengeance against Moby Dick, the whale that bit his leg off.

Although the crew could still rehearse, safety restrictions meant that they had to scale things down which resulted in a longer time to perfect the show before its premiere, adding to the uncertainty surrounding the production. But those trying times inspired the show’s director, Yngvild Aspeli.

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“When the pandemic hit and the world closed down, we were stuck alone in a theatre with the storms raging outside and the panic growing within the crew. And that was the moment I found my real compassion for Captain Ahab,” she recounted. Against all odds, she pressed on and the production eventually premiered in Norway in October 2020.

Working on the project during the pandemic felt like “an impossible task” at times, but Aspeli said the experience also “fed into the creative process, and had an actual impact on what the show became”. For one thing, she and her team drew inspiration from Captain Ahab’s perseverance in their quest to tackle “literature’s beast of a book” which you can expect to see during SIFA 2024 this upcoming weekend.

To retell what Aspeli describes as a “literary treasure”, she decided to employ around 50 handmade puppets, including a larger-than-life Captain Ahab and a life-sized whale, operated by seven puppeteers who also doubled as actors during the show.

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“Puppetry is an excellent tool to visualise things we cannot necessarily explain, but can still feel and understand on a deeper level, because the puppets give us the distance to see ourselves from another perspective,” she explained.

The show’s run in Singapore will be its first in Asia. “It is important to use the power of theatre to create meeting points that go beyond borders and cultures,” Aspeli said.

“I hope the show takes people on a journey into another world, another time, into that special space that only theatre can create. And hopefully, the story and images will provoke feelings and thoughts that shift and open something in their view of the world, or within themselves.”

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All images are credited to SIFA 2024.

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