Adelaide Fringe 2016
Bruce is a hapless bumbler who causes misfortune to most of the people around him, and can’t even cook a piece of toast without burning down the whole street. So how does he find himself on a space shuttle that is shortly going to crash into the Earth?
A play which combines science fiction, comedy, action, relationship drama, and important lessons about gun safety, Bruce is a riotously funny romp about a literal blockhead.
The play starts with a cold open, with Bruce calling his pregnant girlfriend Debbie back at ground control, our protagonist desperately trying to find a way to steer his space shuttle to safety as it begins to break through Earth’s atmosphere.
The story then jumps to an earlier point in time, with Bruce reflecting on the fact that he’s going to be a father, and attempting to drink away his troubles. His drinking and fretting is cut short however, when a mysterious one-eyed Russian giant called Joe bursts into the bar, looking for Bruce.
Bruce is a hard play to describe, as it manages to not only to skilfully switch between two seemingly separate plotlines, (Bruce’s crisis in space and the revenge of Joe the Russian), but because when these two plotlines finally come together, it results in a spectacular twist which completely changes the way the previous events were perceived. What was assumed to be a straightforward madcap caper is instead revealed to be a narrative akin to a Mobius strip, and cleverly concealed within the play’s gleeful commitment to black comedy is a meditation on the nature of reinvention, existentialism, and paternal responsibility.
With a show this detailed and polished, it’s hard to believe that it’s the work of just two men, Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd. Watts and Nixon-Lloyd wrote the script, voice the characters, and are in control of the puppet at all times. That’s right, it’s just one puppet: a foam brick with a mouth and eyes, and white gloves, with the occasional prop added such as a bionic eye and ‘Baby Bruce’. Watts and Nixon-Lloyd work in astounding synchronicity to bring each of the characters to life, with one in charge of the head, the other in charge of the hands.
Whether it’s the shuffling Old Man, the skittish Debbie, or the Terminator-esque Joe, Watts and Nixon-Lloyd have perfected their act so that each of these characters become distinct, in voice as well as movement. Not only that, but they also perform a whole range of supporting characters, such as bartenders, nurses, TV anchors etc., and seamlessly choreograph action sequences and sound effects. It’s truly incredible artistry, and Watts and Nixon-Lloyd more than deserved the extended rapturous applause that greeted them at the end of the play.
Bruce is a show which is a true original, and the narrative jumps from entertaining to innovative once all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. But as well as being the result of a unique and humourous script, its a masterpiece in terms of mime and voice acting.