Ada/Ava by Manual Cinema

★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ada/Ava by Manual Cinema
Published 23 August 2016

Manual Cinema’s show is full of doubles. Two elderly identical twins do everything together, in a life that would be utterly dull if each one didn’t have their own mirror image to share it with. And Manual Cinema’s performance would be utterly dull, too, if it wasn’t for the satisfying symmetry of their storytelling technique. They create a beautiful, heavily stylised silent film using input from two screens: one uses cardboard silhouettes to form the outlines of the twin’s Victorian gothic world, and the other uses two live actors to portray these two shadowy sisters.

After one of the twins dies, her sister tries to replicate their life together: first by gazing in the mirror, then by the somewhat more extreme tactic of raising her from the dead. Things take a ghoulish turn, mixing the pain of bereavement with the still greater agony of life with a zombie sibling.

But even after Ada/Ava’s dramatic lurch to the dark side, it doesn’t quite deliver on excitement. The same scenes repeat again and again – with the disorientating effect of being trapped in a fairground hall of mirrors. And Lizi Breit and Julia Miller's performances as Ava and Ada are oddly characterless: even hobbled by masks, their physicality could do so much more to suggest the twins' quirky gait and vaudeville jollity.

Manual Cinema are a slicker outfit then most shadow puppetry companies, with audience participation sessions at the end and plenty of puppet-related merchandise. But this slickness comes at the expense of charm – the titular twins are as blank as a string of paper dolls.