By Esther Tung
Photos by Jason Tsang
You may not have found the meaning of life, but Ignorance gives you all the right questions to ask
Bliss became elusive once our prefrontal cortexes outgrew ignorance. We spend our lives in search of happiness, but are prohibited by evolutionary design from stopping to smell the roses for too long. What is the meaning of life then — contentment itself, or the never-ending search for it? Or is it something else altogether?
Puppets, managed by a trio of shadowy men in button-up rompers, unfold the simple, yet evocative narrative of seeking the answer to the big question that has been plaguing humans since the evolution of sentient thought. In Discovery Channel documentary style, an omniscient narrator follows the first man and woman in their search for greener pastures, driven by their mutated cognizance of desire and imagination. The pair, created out of what appears to be a rock and some twigs, gibber at each other only in cave-talk, and indeed the puppeteers never say a real word the entire time, but create dialogue through non-verbal cues instead. Sentiments get lost once or twice in a squabble drawn out too long for comedy’s sake or just because it was a difficult one to convey, but the narrator keeps viewers focused on the big picture. The cave couple’s story thread wears thin towards the end of the play, though whimsical and dark snapshots from contemporaria are spliced in to keep the palette cleansed.
This is a story that can be told only by their puppets, which were all designed with care and attention to detail, but made with rough handling in mind. Old Trout employs comedic tricks that appeal to our more primitive side, which seems rather appropriate, though it comes off juvenile at times — puppets are intentionally knocked into things at stage exits or dropped from up high without warning.
Ignorance is not self-indulgent in its exploration of the theme, as it could easily have been, and encourages viewers to create their own meaning rather than pushing them in any one philosophical direction. Ignorance strikes that delicate balance between being light-hearted, yet thought-provoking, and does so without patronizing its audience.
Ignorance will be showing at the Cultch until March 10. Buy tickets here.