Puppet show round-up from the Edinburgh Festival
Rounding up the best acts made of socks, sponges and foam
This article is from 2009.
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.