Lula Del Ray performance brings manual cinema to Cairo’s Hakawy Festival
Soha Elsirgany, Wednesday 14 Mar 2018
Lula Del Ray was staged several times between 10 and 13 March at Hanager Theatre


From the United States to the 8th Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children, the Lula Del Ray performance is a rich and layered dream of an experience.

The performance was staged a total of seven times between 10 and 13 March at the Hanager Theatre on the Cairo Opera Grounds.

Light, shadow and fluid motion are the main ingredients of the show created by the award winning Chicago-based Manual Cinema collective.

The collective aims to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen by blending shadow theatre with manual animation techniques and live music.

The story follows young girl Lula in a coming of age story. She runs away from her small town home to watch a concert in the city, facing the harsh realities of life and challenges along the way.

Lula Del Ray is one of the collective’s five “feature length live cinematic shadow puppet shows,” as stated on their website.

So much is happening on stage; a live three-piece band (two guitars and a cello), three vintage overhead projectors powered by four people, two of which perform at times, and a woman at a table who is behind the sounds effects and musical vocals.

As an audience member, you can watch the entire show like a silent animated film projected on a raised screen, or watch another edition with live acting on a different screen placed upstage, or alternate between both modes as the boundaries between them blur.

Even in two-dimensions, the portrayal of different spaces made the storyline more dynamic and even more emotional.

Lula’s home and her room are small, and maybe even claustrophobic in her case, as she feels trapped in her small life. While the runaway bus she takes to the city somehow feels like a vast and scary space— her first encounter with the outside world on her own. The city’s fast pace is overwhelming in comparison to her quiet, lonely life with her preoccupied mother.

What adds to the overall enchanting effect of Lula Del Ray is the layering of the images, often to the effect of double exposures, which makes every frame a visual treat.

Even as the performers and creators have their backs to the audience, watching the ‘backstage’ unfolding on-stage is as fascinating as being carried away in the film’s dreamy visuals.

Their busy hands work as systematically as scientists, and as fluid as dancers, rhythmically keeping the timing for the magic that appears on the screen.

While we think we’re let in on the secret of how it’s all created, one still marvels at the immaculate execution of it all. The show, which premiered in 2012, took months to prepare and rehearse.

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Lula’s character displays a lot of dimension packed into her silhouette, which is either the real-time shadow of performer Charlotte Long or a paper puppet (both to a very similar effect).

Her hair, tied up in a large up-do is almost heavier than the rest of her, but her frail frame is that of a determined, and quirky girl.

Her head and chest lead her walk, echoing her dreamy, headstrong nature and her wild heart that dreams of more.

She creates things with her own hands, the same way she herself was created by the artists on the screen. It is often those creations, or her hands that get her out of trouble, as she learns to rely on herself.

Lula Del Ray was conceived by Julia Miller, based on original text by Brendan Hill. It was designed and directed by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller, with original music by Kyle Vegter with Ben Kauffman.

The show is enchanting for children and adults alike, as it brings back the magic of the cinema experience.

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