Slick - Head bangers
Kirstin Innes gets behind the squidgy bodies of Vox Motus
This article is from 2008.
Remember when you were a kid, and you would put on plays where one of you would put your arms behind your back and the other one would pretend to be their hands?
It’s an unlikely premise for a piece of theatre targeted at adults, but Glasgow-based company Vox Motus, better known for its high-tech digital multimedia works, thinks differently. Slick, premiering at the Traverse during the Fringe, follows the residents of an ordinary Scottish tenement as they go about their daily lives. So far, so soap opera; the only difference here is that all of those characters are realised through tiny, heavily-cushioned puppet bodies, with one actor playing the head and another being the arms.
Clearly, this is not a form suited to subtle drama or high tragedy. Slick embraces not only the puppets’ potential for comedy, but also the inherent silliness of pretending to have someone else’s hands. It’s definitely not suitable for children, but there’s some of that residual raw, childish glee left in its squidgy, corpulent, shrunken-bodied characters.
‘We started out wanting to make a show about people’s hidden lives,’ says co-writer/director Jamie Harrison. ‘The ways people behave when we think we’re completely alone. To see them, we created a small boy, who’s made to act as go-between for all the frankly bizarre occupants of this tenement.’
Those occupants got increasingly bizarre once costume designer Anna Scatola, who usually makes fat suits for television, came on board. ‘A lot of the character emerged from Anna’s designs,’ says Harrison.’
‘Although this is our least hi-tech show,’ chimes in Candice Edmunds, the other half of Vox Motus, ‘it’s definitely the most complicated thing we’ve ever done. Actually, watching how the actors fit together from behind is as interesting as watching it from the front.’
Slick, Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, 13–24 Aug (not 18), times vary, £14–£16 (£10–£11). Preview 13 Aug £10 (£5).