"My backstory—I was a box," says the gravel-voiced host of Blind Summit's The Table. And yes, there's the telltale look of brown corrugated to his big, multiplaned head, though the rest of him appears to be made of cotton-stuffed cloth. Standing about two feet tall and operated by three London-based puppeteers, he's supposed to be performing a piece about the final hours of Moses on Mount Nebo. He's a garrulous sort, though, and so we get vast digressions, voiced by Blind Summit cofounder Mark Down: A disquisition, for instance, on the merits of the table that defines his world. Peculiar sexual boasts. ("I can change all my parts. Oh, yes, ladies, all my parts.") A tour of his imaginary garden. A look at his fitness regimen. A glimpse of his dancing technique. But most particularly, a fascinating, very funny, ultimately poetic lecture on the nature of puppetry. That is, as it turns out, on being.
There's no disbelief to suspend here. The theatrical illusion is subverted at every turn, by details as small as the brown shoes the puppeteers wear with their black clothes, in contravention of tradition. Looking like no one so much as a bearded John Gielgud, the puppet is well aware of what he is and knows his manipulators face-to-face, the way Moses is said to have known God. The complexity (or joke) of his existence is compounded by the fact that those manipulators are clearly riffing at times, making his life up as they go along. So much for a divine plan.
Yet there's a mystery here all the same. Not in a sculpted piece of cardboard or his handlers—their craft is a marvel, not a mystery—but in us, because, when it comes down to it, we believe him.