Friday night. A tiny room in a crumbling music hall out east. A lone leather bunraku puppet sings Kate Bush songs, sweeping dramatically across a table top stage. Saturday night, up north. A rod puppet with flowing grey locks creates his own show, using masks and miniscule puppets to tell the story of a watchful eagle and a sleeping, but doomed baby. Suspense has started and will run for the rest of the week, with adult puppet performances taking place in a range of venues.
Boris and Sergey’s Puppet Cabaret at Wilton’s was alright... Funny in places, and there was skillful group puppetry on display in cramped conditions. But we weren’t completely convinced. Skits forced out to the bitter ends of songs lost momentum and some gags misfired. Faux eastern European Boris and Sergey were beautiful puppets but not so wonderful hosts. The word ‘cabaret’ is a crowd drawer but perhaps the format, or the term itself, is starting to be over- or misused?
Autumn Portraits at the Little Angel again saw some very skillful puppetry on display, not least the self-conscious act of puppets performing their own puppetry on a tiny scale. A one man show, Eric Bass presented a series of short vignettes that showed characters in the autumn years of their lives. We loved the idea of a piece populated by the elderly – a section of society that’s often ignored. But again the verdict is just ‘alright’. Masterly puppetry, but let down by fairly flat stories. Story is king after all.
We are not disheartened though! The festival programme is packed with delightful sounding shows. We’re really looking forward to seeing The Tragic and Regrettable Life of Teofila Teodora de la Lima at the Pleasance (with dirty folk music from Apple of My Eye); Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba at the New Diorama (from the award winning Iranian Yas-e-Tamam Theatre Group); and Maison Foo’s Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin at Jackson’s Lane (a fringe sell out at Edinburgh 2010). Keep an eye out for our verdict on all three later in the week.