Although Brighton is a long (almost the longest) way from Scotland, at this time of year all eyes turn to Edinburgh for the richest menu of brilliant theatre arts. Puppetry is no exception, and despite not heading North of the border ourselves this year, we’ve picked out our favourite puppetry productions in the Fringe, guaranteed to offer you inspiration and food for thought if you are there. We wish we were too!
Young company Smoking Apples follow up their neuroscience-inspired hit CELL with In Our Hands (Underbelly, 16.00), a tale of fishermen and their disappearing ways of life (pictured). Their puppetry is powerful and the storytelling sounds first rate – a show to dive into and immerse yourself. There is bound to be great quality object animation and tabletop theatre on display in Puppet Beings theatre’s The Adventure of Puppets (Summerhall, 11.45), part of Summerhall’s Taiwan Season. The company bring a seriousness of tone and traditional styling that’s balanced by real artistry in their puppetry.
Also animating objects at Summerhall are Théâtre de la Pire Espèce who have been touring their take on Jarry’s Ubu Roi, Ubu on the Table (Summerhall, 14.35), using object theatre, since 1998. To stay on the road this long, it must be good!
Smoking Apples have also provided the puppets and puppetry for the intriguing looking Jellyfish by Intrepid Ensemble, a new play exploring issues around young people’s mental health that features a rather beautiful looking giant jellyfish (Pleasance Courtyard, 11.45 – you can see some lovely video here).
Honourable mention must go to The Bookbinder (Pleasance Courtyard, 13.00), seen and loved by us in this year’s Brighton Fringe – a one-man tale that’s miniature in scale and epic in scope and features lovingly-crafted puppetry of many flavours alongside a beautiful pop-up book. Also seen at Brighton Fringe, European collective Theatre Temoin’s The Marked (Pleasance Dome, 13.30) combines mask work with puppetry in a tale drawn from accounts of homelessness.
For shadow puppetry fans, Chicago troupe The Manual Cinema’s Ada/Ava (Underbelly, 16.00), is about two twins, one living, one dead, and looks visually stunning. This cinematic show reaches for an epic scope from its humble technology and comes replete with some fantastic reviews from stateside. And we at BPS are always fans of shows that make use of OHP magic on stage! Likewise, the brilliant and Total Theatre award-winning shadow company Bunk Puppets are back from Australia with two new shows. If solo show Sticks, Stones and Broken Bones (Underbelly, 12.10) and the farm-based Tink Tank (Underbelly, 14.00) follow in the footsteps of the fabulous Slapdash Galaxy, expect fantastically inventive junk shadow puppet creations, visual comedy, and a brilliant dose of clowning.
For a real flavour of the Fringe, improvised puppetry comedy Glitch (The Space @Surgeons Hall, 16.05) looks promising. Tabletop muppet-style puppets create a new show every day and it looks like puppetry mayhem and hilarity could ensue. Likewise Meet Fred (Summerhall, 15.55), created by Hijinx in collaboration with tabletop puppetry masters Blind Summit, will feature brilliance in puppetry skills. Its comic tale of one ’regular’ guy forced to deal with everyday prejudice against cloth puppets sounds like it could blend Blind Summit’s often philosophical take on the form with some witty contemporary satire. We expect first rate tabletop work. If marionettes are more your bag, then Tarantino homage Puppet Fiction (Laughing Horse, 12.00) featuring a reconstruction of the movie cast in 40cm-high string puppets, comes replete with cult status from its New Zealand home and looks like it might earn that in Edinburgh too.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets who this year are ‘doing Shakespeare’ (Gilded Balloon, 22.30). It’s rough puppetry, very rough (!), but very funny. Have a beer first.
Though often described as a vent act, Nina Conti’s Monkey is a superb and empathetic puppet creation and her new, improvised show, In Your Face (Pleasance Courtyard 20.00), promises to turn audience members into puppets, through the use of masks. It will be brilliant.
If you’re heading up to the Festival this year, please let us vicariously share your trip! Keep us posted about anyone we might have missed and any puppetry discoveries you make.