Puppetry is often associated with the cuddly, but let's get one thing straight: the puppets in 69ºS are not cute. In Erik Sanko and Jessica Grindstaff's new production, now playing as part of BAM's Next Wave festival, ghostly marionettes are used to silently reenact the harrowing Antarctic voyage of Ernest Shackleton in 1914. We took a look at Sanko's fantastically creepy studio over the summer, but the finished result is finally here. And it's one stunner of a show.
Surround-sound music from downtown fixture Sanko's live junk band, Skeleton Key, provides the electrifying soundtrack, while legendary string outfit Kronos Quartet provides the background noise. On stage, slow-moving, white-robed stiltwalkers manipulate creepily detailed Antarctic explorers through snowstorms and shipwrecks, all without a word. Astral audio and video that Grindstaff and Sanko captured on a research trip to Antarctica flicker across the projection screen behind the stage. It's a hypnotic, overwhelming performance, that will leave you feeling vaguely unsettled—in a good way.
69ºS is running through tomorrow night at BAM's Harvey Theater.