Brighton Fringe 2013
Punched has developed a reputation for quality puppet cabaret nights featuring local Brighton based puppeteers trying out new ideas and experimental forms. The nights usually sell out and the whole thing is hosted by the transgender, bouffant-haired Miranda – a puppet – with a New York Jewish accent, fading glamour and a rough tongue. So The Best of Punched was presented this fringe as a one off evening featuring, well, the best of the acts from the regular nights, presumably. The acts are intimate and often miniature (with a few exceptions) and many of the companies are trying out work that is in development or at an early stage.
The Old Market is a tricky venue to host such a night. Is is quite a large classic proscenium playing space and raked seating extending quite a way from the stage. Seated quite close to the back meant I missed significant amount of detail which I can really imagine in a smaller space like the Nightingale, would have really been magical. A couple of acts, EekNGrr’s The Butcher and the Beast and also several of the characters from Colossal Crumbs offering suffered the most and the detail was all but lost. One thought I had was that a live video feed might have been useful, as I have seen this used to good effect in other puppet pieces in larger venues.
The night had a rough-shod casualness about it which I quite liked, although felt at times it could have benefitted from a little more succinctness. Again, in a smaller venue I can imagine the looseness feeling more befitting. In a larger space, the expectation is amplified somehow. The techincal support was pretty poor, which i was suprised by in The Old Market, however when i enquired about it afterwards, I found out that the venue tech was off sick last minute, so presumably a the technical difficulties were the result of the company haveing to do a noble job last minute job of fending for themsleves.
Highlights included Daisy Jordan’s Orangutang and Me, an artfully done post-puppet deconstruction and Isabel Smith’s Thinking it and Faking it with human femur bones and a line of washing becoming animated ghosts. I got a closer inspection of the EekNGrr puppets a the interval and the craftsmanship was extraordinary. My favourite thing by far was Matt Rudkin’s extract from Buddhism, Is it Just for Losers? A ‘post structuralist zen clown show’ about a man addicted to rational thought. Super clever, well constructed and in spite of being quite miniature, coped boldly with the size of the space. I am looking forward to seeing that one in full. Over all my feeling is, although the venue wasn’t the appropriate one, hats off to Touched Theatre for getting together a night that is clearly an inspiring idea and successful format, giving local puppet artists a chance to try out new material and continue an enquiry into what puppetry is and can be. I look forward to catching it at the Nightingale Theatre soon when they are back on home turf.