A visual triumph, with a heartwarmingly human protagonist
This article is from 2015.
Carried on by a man dressed in black, a white, 4ft-tall, bespectacled puppet is sat on a chair, centre stage. Through a synthesised voice, it addresses the audience. His name is Ted, he suffers from motor neurone disease and he is the beating heart of CELL, a visually stunning production from Smoking Apples and Dogfish.
The debilitating effects of MND are made clear from the outset of the play. An avid stamp collector, the first sign of Ted's disease appears when he finds himself unable to raise his hand at an auction. In a masterfully realised series of hospital tests, Ted's worst fears are confirmed: a brain scan is projected onto a silhouette of his head, and a row of lights, representing motor signals, blink, flicker, and fall as Ted's movement degenerates before the audience's eyes.
Determined to make the most of his situation, Ted packs a suitcase and heads for the continent, resolving to do all the things he always wished he could and 'have a bloody good time'. Filled with humorous and heartwarming moments, his adventures across Europe with his pet goldfish showcase the lovably grumpy Ted at his most endearing.
The production slows down in its third act and seems to struggle to fill the hour, but it's an inspiring story with a enchantingly human central character. Combining a mix of puppetry forms and an evocative original score with breathtaking technical brilliance, CELL is a visual theatre gem.
Underbelly Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, until Aug 30, 4.35pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).