Kritik zu Dumpu Dinki (Figurentheater Anne-Kathrin Klatt) von Annemari Parmakson

Hands of Anne-Kathrin Klatt (Foto: Figurentheater Anne-Kathrin Klatt)

It is interesting when a performance starts with something that does not give away too much about what is going to happen. “Dumpu Dinki” does just that: it begins with the subtle sounds of the karimba from behind the backs of the audience – it is as if a gentle tap on the shoulder to request attention. The visual aesthetic of the production is also a bit surprising. An asymmetrical box serves as the main stage, painted in the style of abstract expressionism and thus looking like something made by hands having their own free will.

It appears that Emil Kuyumcuyan, the one making the karimba sounds, and all the live music and sound effects in general, is quite an amusing contrast with what is about to follow. He wears a black t-shirt and a serious expression, being focused on the assortment of percussion instruments in front of him, in order to, for example, produce the sound that flowers make when they grow.

The main characters of the show however are not the hands holding the drum sticks, but the ones (played by Anne-Kathrin Klatt) reaching out from the box, sitting on the edge of it. One must not confuse these, called Dumpu and Dinki, with the regular Left and Right. The ones of the play have a long way to go to an effortlessly cooperating relationship. Making such “hand theatre” for young children is fitting because body parts tend to be fascinating for them in general.

The story is a classic one: meeting of two strangers, confronting each other, having trouble adjusting and finding common ground, and at the end – finding a harmonious existence. The simplicity of the story is mostly made up for by the inventiveness of the hand movements and little ways of portraying the opposite personalities of the characters. Dinki is the cheerful and playful one, Dumpu is grumpy and more standoffish. It appears that hands, which are normally conducting puppets, are no less interesting without the costumes. The specificity of the hand as a puppet is that common hand signs (such as “stop”) can be used, appearing as incorporating the puppet’s whole body. This creates a dynamic effect and some humour as well.

What these skills could not compensate for however, were the gender stereotypes. For some reason, the story just has to take the course of a love story, in which the one with the traditionally masculine qualities gives a pink flower to the utterly feminine one, who giggles over it, they kiss – happy end. This is preceded by Dinki laying an egg, crying over Dumpu turning his back on him (although he was originally the one being mean towards her) and Dinki frantically cackling like a hen as a means to defeat the other in a game of mutual bickering. This last one especially struck as a baffling artistic choice, considering that the comparison between the sound of hens and behaviour of women is a well-known harmful stereotype. Such aspects, which gave the characters clear genders in line with stereotypes, were not actually necessary to tell this story of friendship. They made the simple story even more tediously predictable. Alternatively, these actions of the characters could have been mixed up between them in a different way. It would be much more refreshing, if for once, it would be the tough one who gets excited about a flower.

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