Ada/Ava by Manual Cinema is a quirky presentation of shadow puppetry and emotional sentimentality, and there’s no hiding from its creators; they reveal the creative process live to the audience as it happens. Manual Cinema takes you on a surreal journey of two elderly twins, close as best friends, ever since childhood, until one of the sisters dies.
It is the sad realisation that Ada and Ava are no longer together, which devastates and resonates the most with this show, which Manual Cinema captures beautifully through its touching narrative and unique artistry.
Directors Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Vanarsdale Miller (who also performs as Ada) and Kyle Vegter have been successful in North America and won an award in 2014 at the Tehran International Festival. They made their European debut at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe at the Underbelly, which had many audience members give the theatre company a standing ovation on the day I attended.
The craftsmanship takes place on simple projectors with ready-made images for projecting onto a large white screen. Below Lizi Breit (Ava) and Julia Vaarsdale Miller (Ada) mill around, creating the story of the sisters with various masks, hair buns and old granny clothes to match.
Ready-to-use cut-outs and stencils are carefully placed to show the audience an animated tale of life, death, and memory. Flying back to their youth, the twins are shown playing fondly together in the sea, watching their feet catch the splashes of waves, yet melancholy arises when the dead sister becomes a skeleton – a fear the other sister doesn’t want to accept.
Musicians Maren Celest, Michael Hilger, Kyle Vegter and Alex Ellsworth play a huge part of the show by creating the solemn, atmospheric music with a guitar, Rhodes piano, cello, clarinet, synthesizer and live sound effects. This emotional tale can be dramatic and deeply philosophical. One may feel the need to call a loved one immediately after seeing this.