Meet Fred (4 stars)

You'll believe a puppet can cry

Meet Fred

credit: Jonathan Dunn

Hijinx and Blind Summit's very meta production, which is inspired by Bunraku (the Japanese art with three men manually operating a puppet) tickles identity issues and makes some salient points about modern-day prejudice and self-determination. Blank-faced little puppet Fred is brutally reminded by the director, Ben Pettitt-Wade (playing a version of himself) that he is expendable. When his Puppet Living Allowance is cut after employment and romantic woes, Fred reaches the end of his tether.

Sick of being exploited and offered jobs as a children's entertainer, he spirals into depression, facing a long dark night of the soul in the rain and enters a seedy bar to get drunk. This is a gorgeously rendered scene: using rice for rain and vomit is an inspired choice. Dan McGowan as Fred, alongside the rest of the cast, is very fine indeed.

Even the puppeteers turn, and the floor manager gets in on the act. Cue the whole show imploding in a fit of pique. But there has to be an alternative. At times full of pathos, often very funny, Meet Fred seems to have caught the zeitgeist of inventive puppetry at the festival, where more can be said using the blank canvas of puppets, leaving the audience to project their own hopes, dreams and fears.

It's not flawless – the pacing is a little off, meandering towards the middle with a slightly rushed ending. But there are many moments of wonder – for once it's a prime example of emotional manipulation in all the best ways.

Summerhall, until 25 Aug (not 22), 3.55pm, £10 (£6).

Meet Fred

  • 4 stars

Hijinx in association with Blind Summit 'Prejudice against puppetry is the only acceptable form of prejudice' (David Sefton, Artistic Director, Adelaide International Festival). A cloth puppet fights prejudice every day. Fred just wants to be a regular guy, part of the real world, to get a job, meet a girl and settle…


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