Puppet show round-up from the Edinburgh Festival

This article is from 2009

Puppet show round-up from the Edinburgh Festival

Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams

Rounding up the best acts made of socks, sponges and foam

Puppetry acts are the black sheep of the performing arts family: indulged but not held in serious regard. Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre Company’s Oh! What a Shitty War (●●) recounts the history of warfare with hand puppets. Mistaking the charmingly homemade for a pile of old tat, the politics are juvenile and the only good bits are nicked from Team America: World Police. Meanwhile, Puppet Grinder Cabaret (●●) promises anarchic, inventive and adult ventriloquism, puppetry and short films but the acts are uninspired, with the sole exception of a papier-mâché stripper.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Goes to Hollywood (●●●) with the mouthy socks’ now familiar blend of songs, bickering and topical gags bent around the theme of film genres to a solidly commercial result. Also proving that a family outcast can surpass expectations and turn a quick buck is Paul Zerdin: Sponge Fest (●●●). With excellent ventriloquism skills and a range of mischievous puppet characters, this Royal Variety Show staple offers dependable laughs to anyone who thinks Britain’s Got Talent is a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday evening.

At the opposite end of the taste spectrum is Randy’s Postcards from Purgatory (●●●●), the foul-mouthed saving grace of the much-maligned puppet fraternity. Randy is an alcoholic children’s entertainer in the midst of a break-up. A loveable loser in the style of John Cusack from High Fidelity, he narrates a self-deprecating tale leavened by musical numbers and made poignant by an affectingly honest delivery. The comedy on its own is of a high standard, so the fact that it’s delivered by an expertly manipulated puppet adds an extra layer of awe. Operated by Heath McIvor (of the excellent Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams), Randy proves that performers made of foam can give their human counterparts a run for their money, although they may need a hand to succeed.

Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams

  • 5 stars

Edinburgh Fringe favourite and Australian stand-ups Sammy J and Heath McIvor bring a cast of 14 puppets to town for a warped and definitely adults-only journey into the magical world of children's tales.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Goes to Hollywood

Back after two Edinburgh sell-out years, with brand new songs, sketches, socks and violence. 'For sheer energy and laughs per hour, these comic stockings are the biz - denier miss it' - **** (Scotsman, 2008).

Paul Zerdin: Sponge Fest

As seen on not one, not two, but three Royal Variety Performances, join the UK's no.1 ventriloquist plus Sam, Albert and Baby. Book early! 'Brilliant' (Evening Standard). 'A ventriloquist for the "South Park" generation' (Stage).

Puppet Grinder Cabaret

For adults only, this spectacle offers a feast of dazzlingly skillful puppetry. With a splash of raunchiness, this rip-roaring and outrageously funny show is an eclectic cabaret of live puppetry and animated short films.

Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre Company's Oh! What a Shitty War

Shitty puppets return, this time it's personal. The history and horrors of war explained by renegade, rag-tag, swearing puppets. 'Brilliant, hilariously funny, must-see stuff' - ***** (Kate Copstick, Scotsman).