Beowulf (3 stars)

This article is from 2015


credit: James Ratchford/Shoot the Magic

Charming, visually inventive puppetry retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic

There’s an almost naïve sweetness to Atomic Force’s engaging retelling of the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf epic of honour, valour, scary monsters and motherly love (well, kind of). Using specially made table-top and shadow puppets, a fresh translation of the verse and live music, the company of three actors / puppeteers and one musician stay relatively faithful to the ancient original text, yet relate its events with a graceful, charming clarity.

Tom Dussek gives an enjoyably sonorous recitation of Craig Jordan-Baker’s newly written verse – mostly lyrical, although a few awkward rhymes here and there ring strangely on the ear. The puppetry is simple but evocative, and the puppet creations themselves tread a fine line between the grotesque and the likeable – it’s a fine show for kids, as long as they can take on the sometimes philosophical themes. Even better is the inventive use of a ladder and equipment box in Andy Cresswell’s fluid staging – they become a castle, an undersea kingdom and more, all conjured with an understated elegance.

It’s fresh, enjoyable storytelling, full of striking images and vivid characters – although it could perhaps have dug a little deeper into the work’s themes of kingship, honour and revenge to make it truly incisive.

Sweet Grassmarket, 243 3596, until 23 Aug, 3.50pm, £8 (£6).


  • 3 stars

Atomic Force Productions A contemporary version of the Anglo-Saxon epic, combining tabletop and shadow puppetry, live music and poetry. A poet performs the tale in verse, bringing the story to life with a memorable cast of puppet characters, each with their own unique voice and style. They debate, dance and battle their…