Review: Argue with me!

God’s Puppet Game

Do you still remember God, Adam and Eve? After watching the Argue With Me! performance, you will immediately remember them. The students of the Polish National Academy of Theatre Arts take the audience back to the carefree times when the day started with a warm giggle and all activity consisted of rocking on a swing and following simple rules… Or did it? What lies behind the laws that are supposed to ensure a paradisiacal life? And are those who obey them really happy? These are the questions that actors Julia Bochenek (Woman) and Miłosz Broniszewski (Man) ask the audience.

The whole concept is pleasantly simple and perfectly understandable even for an unfamiliar viewer, as it treats a well-known biblical story. The easy comprehensibility is also supported by the minimalist acting style, free of complex psychologizing gestures. The vernacular is also aided by the linguistic affinity, which makes the voluminous text easier to understand. In addition, the performance is supplemented by English subtitles.

At the beginning, both actors are wearing a foam puppet. Julia’s symbolizes a woman and Miłosz’s a man. The actors themselves are not visible, all movements are designed so that they do not have to turn around. Their characters lead a happy life. But over time the Woman becomes bored in the same environment, she is no longer satisfied with a life limited by seemingly simple and innocent rules. Both actors are already turning their sides and then their backs to the audience. They gradually reveal themselves so that first the Woman and then the Man throw off their masks (or puppets) of carefree life. In exchange, they discover that waking up and breaking out of blind fanatical rule-following does not hurt.

If the production can be faulted for anything, it is the technical sophistication of the puppets. From the beginning of the performance, the actors‘ faces are sometimes unintentionally visible, which spoils the intended metaphor. The use of hands as clock hands or mouths as the sound of passing time could have been better polished – for example, by phasing each movement to correspond to one sound.

However, the ambivalent transformation is well represented by the production. The actors‘ lines and their conception of the roles create a pleasant atmosphere that manages to hold the audience’s attention throughout.  A great point is made by the final use of apples, which have represented God’s rules all along. The ensemble turns the expulsion from paradise on its head at that moment. Adam takes the first bite, and both he and Eve are surprised to find that nothing is actually happening.

author: Jakub Liška