Brighton Fringe 2012
Attack of the 50 foot woman is a staged version of a 50s B sci-fi film. It involves UFO encounters in the Californian desert, adultery, lies, a murder plot and ultimately, as the title suggests, an engorged and enraged woman rampaging through town
Staged in the very fringe-feeling Iambic Arts theatre, the meticulously made set and props are perfectly evocative of a 50s aesthetic – from the beautiful to-scale wireless to the convertible car that speeds along the desert highway. The UFO is a delightful piece of engineering based on the front wheel of a bicycle. The two puppeteers of Croon Productions handle three main characters and two or three minor characters through puppets of various sizes (allowing us to zoom in and out, as it were). The marionettes are skilfully manoeuvred around the set. A few make-out scenes are oddly transfixing, and puppet dancing mesmerising. The frozen features of the puppets are reminiscent of wooden acting style of 50s – in fact, the female puppets look a bit like Joan Rivers, with their puffed-up lips and prominent cheekbones (the only male puppet, if you’re wondering, looks a little like Christopher Walken – go figure).
The show is let down by a lack of visibility – the rostra used to elevate the seating would have been better deployed in giving the stage a boost. It meant that anyone not in the front row had to crane their necks for at least half the show. The performance itself is a little rough around the edges, with dead spots in transitions and long gaps in dialogue causing distinct lags and drops in energy. I was confused by a short piece of mask work in which the same characters were portrayed by the puppeteers holding up face-masks, rather inexplicably.
The adaptation to puppetry was not quite enough to reinvigorate the hackneyed plot – we’ve all seen some version of this many times, it’s an image and a storyline that we can all recognise: the first 55 minutes is the story of a woman whose husband is messing around with another woman, and they hatch a plan to off the wife. While there was some inventive interpretation of scenes and characters, it seems more a homage than a transformation. The entrance of the 50-foot woman herself – while visually and technically quite impressive (except for her disappointing lack of appropriate costume) – is right at the end of the performance, which is a lot of buil-up for not very much pay off. Still, there is plenty that is good and that can get even better in this little performance.