Using puppets, light and sound, the show sent out a message about life, death and friendship

“You’ve come to fetch me?” asks Duck in exasperation. “I’ve always been around, just in case” replies Death, stoic as ever. “In case of what? Are you going to make something happen?” Duck shudders.

“Life takes care of that,” comes the soft reply.

Duck, Death and Tulip, staged by a group of German artists at the Indirapriyadarshini Auditorium, Jawahar Bal Bhavan on Thursday, is as much about life as it is about death. The story is simple enough: The carefree Duck begins to notice that he is being followed by an eerie figure. Much to Duck’s horror, the figure, clothed in a chequered robe, tulip in hand and a skull for a head, introduces itself as Death. Thus forms a unique and special friendship where Duck introduces Death to life itself — swimming in the pond, climbing on trees and playing games. Death almost forgets its reason for being there.

Duck, Death and Tulip is the English translation of Ente, Tod und Tulpe, a story by Wolf Eribruch and has been adapted for the stage by director Joerg Lehmann.

While the brochure said ‘puppet play’, Duck, Death and Tulip surprised the audience of adults and children by being much more. Puppeteer Heiko Oeft managed the puppets with enthusiasm that reflected onto the audience. Duck’s capers left the children in fits of laughter.

Martina Couturier portrays Death as the calm and gentle facilitator, who is as clueless about the afterlife as the living. Musician Anja Clarissa Gills was the real puppeteer of the show as the live music she singlehandedly provided set the tune for the entire performance. Switching between five instruments with ease she complemented every turn of Death’s head and every dive Duck made into the pond with her score. The minimal sets were seamlessly transformed from underwater scenes to sunny tree tops with the lighting of Dirk Lutz.

After the show, the floor was open to questions and children brimming with queries flocked to the cast who patiently answered them one by one. “Did Duck really die?” asked eight-year-old Ishan, furrowing his eyebrows. “What happens to Death after Duck dies?” asked six-year-old Ankita, expectantly.

Death seems to be an unlikely subject for children’s book but the show brings a realisation that the story, a sensitive and honest approach to the concept of life, friendship and death itself, deserves a place among our favourite bedtime stories.