Lovingly crafted with an assembly of puppeteers and a live score, Lula del Ray seeks to bring out the child in all of us. Through the eyes of their titular protagonist, Chicago-based arts collective Manual Cinema explores our childhood dreams (from reaching the Moon to becoming a rockstar) and the naïve mistakes, shocks and broken hearts we encounter on our way to understanding the adult world.
Lula del Ray is a magical coming-of-age film, told from the perspective of the young and old through the characters of Lula herself (played periodically by Sarah Fornace) and her mother (Julia Miller). Set in the American Southwest of the 1950s, we follow the young Lula as her childhood obsession with space grows amongst rows of satellites in an obscure desert. As she builds rocket ships and scrambles up the satellites – dreaming of what they might be receiving – we see her curiosity blossom into an adolescent fixation with the song ‘Lord, Blow the Moon Out, Please’ by the Baden Brothers.
The Manual Cinema cast give the audience an intimate insight into Lula’s mind, playing out the fantasies of distant galaxies that the music conjures in her excited mind. They combine the romance of a young mind realising her dream with touching comedic moments, as Lula begins to understand that the adult freedom she wishes for herself comes with responsibility.
But perhaps even more intriguing than the storyline presented on the foremost screen is the live-action performance that is openly on display, where shadow and transparency are created through a dynamic combination of puppetry and the cast’s own shadows. The shadow puppets that help tell Lula’s story greatly compliment Fornace’s performance as the protaginst.
Immersive and spatially ambiguous, Lula del Ray is an ambitious demonstration of what happens when multiple artistic talents combine. It is not quite a theatre performance – and yet not quite a film either – and becomes almost documentary-like in its transparency of revealing all that goes on behind the scenes. Though a little jittery and imperfectly performed at times, this only adds to the charm of the concept of a live film performance, translating many of the common elements of filmmaking at an impressively rapid and well-choreographed speed, creating a coherent and visually satisfying narrative.
Lula del Ray
Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302)
Until 28th August (not 14th)
Photo credit: Jerry Shulman