Puppet show round-up from the Edinburgh Festival
- Suzanne Black
- 16 August 2009
This article is from 2009.
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.