It’s that time of year and the Fringe is almost upon us. The city’s about to be enveloped in culture of all shapes and sizes like a glorious, messy, love letter to art.
Here at BPS we wanted to wrap up some of the best puppetry gifts coming to town into one handy package. We really do have a #puppetryscene here in Brighton these days, and the Fringe is a wonderful opportunity to get new inspirations and support one another’s work.
Ceci N’est pas de Deux is definitely not a balletic duet between two dancers… because at least one of them is a puppet. Receiving rave reviews at its fringe debut last year, this Dutch production promises mesmeric dance theatre and a gorgeously grotesque puppet crammed onto the Old Courtroom’s stage. A must see.
Another must on the list is Daisy Jordan’s The Sorrowful Tale of Sleeping Sydney, which has been developing in Brighton over the last two years. Featuring some of the best glove puppetry you’ll see anywhere this festival-time, and a lovingly crafted puppetry world full of gorgeously detailed props and extras, the show brings to life the macabre true story of the Brighton chocolate box murders in the 1870s. Dark, funny, and you get a free chocolate (eat it if you dare)!
Sabotage Theatre have been a big part of the puppetry scene in Brighton for the past couple of years and have played a big part in the development of the School. At the same time, they’ve been creating their own unique show, The Looker, which combines new writing, physical theatre, puppetry and a heartfelt story. If you attended our Make a Short Show showcase at the Marlborough earlier this year you’ll have had a sneak peek at the quality and originality on offer. Having toured Sussex in a horse and cart over the autumn, the show’s setting up camp in the beautiful surroundings of the Speigeltent from May 5th to invite you into what we’re sure will be a thought-provoking and brilliantly theatrical festival experience.
If you like your puppetry more in a televisual and muppet style, A Puppet Named Desire is bringing some sketchy, puppetry fun to the Warren. Showing that puppets really are the masters of cross-over, the company have previously won the Best Comedy Award at the fringe. It could be very fringey, but the puppets look ace!
Another slice of pure fringe, and one of our guilty pleasures when we’re up in Edinburgh, is the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, who’ll be taking up residence in the basement at Komedia. Taking the art of sh*t puppetry to new heights, this will be a truly ridiculous, fast paced, manic session of total sock chaos!
Elevating what one audience member described as ‘crapetry’ to real art, Pocket Epics return to the fantastic ONCA gallery for a second year of performances with their unique reimagining of Richard II. Fronted by RSC actor Gregory Gudgeon, this is a close-up, brilliant performance of the king narcissist, here finding extremely apt support from a cast of wonky puppets. It’s dolly waggling par excellence, but extremely dramatically satisfying and a truly unique performance.
Over at our friends The Marlborough, SEX will be taking centre stage with a cabaret evening curated by the lovely Wondering Hands. Complementing the top puppetry in their unique show Sex and Puppets, from which excerpts will be presented, will be new takes on the theme by three other puppetry artists, so an eclectic night is promised. We think it’ll be an evening worth coming out for!
And, speaking of cabaret, special mention must also be made of the screening of Brighton: Symphony of a City, a lovingly made film chronicling some of the Brighton’s unique, iconic sights and sounds, and featuring our very own Miranda in full flow at Punched. One night only at the Unitarian Church, June 1st.
If you prefer your puppetry more classical, the Jiangsu Puppet Troupe arriving at the Sallis Benney will definitely be worth a look. Performing for one show only, there are sure to be some remarkable puppets and puppetry on display from the remarkable Chinese puppetry tradition. Although officially for children, puppet-interested adults will definitely find much to fascinate them here.
Last on my list, for those who’d like a real fringe experience, why not check out this first ever show from a young London puppetry company premiering on the fringe, A Song of Plague. Set in London, 1665, when the plague haunts the streets, it offers a great theme, rich in atmosphere. We have no idea what to expect but it might be worth a punt and could be wonderful! Either way a puppet-y fringe adventure is promised!
There’s a wealth of puppetry for children on offer at this year’s festivals, including sterling work by local companies Herringbone Arts and our sister company TouchedTheatre presenting puppetry work and workshops in the community-focused YourPlace strand of the Festival proper.
Twinkle Twinkle features performances from our very own director Darren East, bringing alive the magic of puppetry for very young audiences. Made especially for small people aged 1 – 3 and introducing an adorable puppet puppy, Marty, the show opens the Fringe with a bank holiday weekend of top quality puppetry performances.
Brighton based company, Banyan Tree Theatre bring some much needed cultural diversity to the puppetry sector and their flamboyant, epic tale of Little Wing is coming to the Warren’s big space, which I am confident they are going to fill with fantastic music, dazzling dragons and some great puppetry in this fabulous fantasy.
Another excellent puppeteer coming to town for the Fringe is artist Lori Hopkins, formerly associate at London’s wonderful Little Angel Theatre. Her show, Sourpuss, features a cat almost as loveable as Marty the puppy, and we love the promise of a grumpy cat learning to love the natural world. For 3 – 8 years old (quite a span there), we think this will be a lovely puppet show.
Moving forward in years, Mumblecrust Theatre’s Tale of the Cockatrice is for ages 5+ and won the Children and Family Award at Brighton fringe last year. Its inventive storytelling, inspired by mythical monster the Cockatrice, offers visual storytelling and lots of laughs for family audiences.
So here endeth our top tips for top puppetry on this year’s Fringe: why don’t you share yours with us!