Pros: The puppeteers were incredibly talented and their precision and delicacy throughout was impressive.
Cons: It was difficult to connect with the story on an emotional level and some parts of the show were slightly drawn out.
The heart of the Brighton Festival is around the Brighton Pavilion, with a wonderful atmosphere in the surrounding streets. Outside the Dome Studio Theatre there was a long queue for Chiflon: The Silence of the Coals. The house was late to open but luckily it was a nice day and there was a lot to see while waiting in the queue.
Chiflon: The Silence of the Coals was a beautiful puppet show, which told the story of a miner and his family. The opening sequence showed the miner hard at work before the tunnel appeared to collapse around him and he was buried under a pile of rubble. We then appeared to go back in time and see him fearfully arriving for what I imagine was his first day.
The show also depicted a woman who was seen cooking and washing, waiting for the miner to return home. Although beautifully done, I found these sequences slightly too long. There could have been more development of the story instead of so much time spent showing us the menial tasks that were being done at home. A sequence between two women in the home was quite endearing, however again it was quite long and I wasn’t sure who the two women were meant to be and what their relationship to the miner was. I did enjoy the section in which time passing without the return of the miner was demonstrated with pieces of washing being hung up until bunting like sheets streamed across the back of the stage.
The puppetry was absolutely beautiful: simple wooden puppets were used to depict the three characters in the play and the changes between each scene were very delicately and effectively executed. The sequence where the miner descended down the pit was very evocative and the use of the staging was incredibly clever. Unfortunately, I found it hard to see the sequences that took place down in the pit as they were on the floor of the theatre and the seating made it difficult to see.
The puppeteers were all in black so they blended into the dark backdrop of the set, and with simple miners torches on they also effectively lit the small stages for the puppets. I was in awe of their intricate and precise movements which brought the puppets to life.
The set was very simple, mainly wooden sets that moved around each other at the hands of the puppeteers. The use of sound effects was also very effective in setting the scene, from the babbling stream to the working sounds of the pit.
Although this was a beautiful piece of theatre with very effective set and talented puppeteers, the show failed to engage me throughout. Had the story been developed further, this could easily have been an incredibly emotive show, but unfortunately it did leave me slightly restless.
Author: Baldomero Lillo
Directed and Produced by: Silencio Blanco.
Booking Until: This show has finished its run at the Brighton Festival.