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Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre presents . . . Oh! What a Shitty War

Axis of Evil

Venue: The Zoo Southside


Low Down

Comedy capers with a cast of grubby puppets, whose fast-paced and enjoyably irreverent run-through of the history of war sees the ‘baddies’ played by kids toys and hand-puppets. While this performance seemed a little scrappier even than intended by this self-conciosuly ‘shitty’ company, there was some very funny material that is sure to sharpen up.


Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre Company got plenty of attention last year after their two disarmingly scrappy puppet shows delighted – and possibly offended – sell-out audiences in Edinburgh. Their new offering, ‘Oh! What a Shitty War’, runs in the same vein, but hasn’t quite come together yet. While the two previous shows both utilised a straightforward ‘history of’ format, charging through hundreds of years of ‘art’ or ‘oppression’ respectively,  ‘Shitty War’ instead hangs its war-rubbishing on a very flimsy narrative.

Of course, it’s self-consciously shitty story – the President’s daughter (a Barbie) has been kidnapped, and Burp, a green goggle-eyed creature who makes an unlikely action hero, has been sent to rescue her from a pair of heavily-bearded Islamic fundamentalist Mr Potato Heads (as with previous years, much of the delight of the show comes from the comic (mis)matching of character and puppet). Mr Doper, a gin-lovin’, foul-mouthed clown puppet, and innocent baby bear Bobbie set off to Syria to help Burp, and on their travels give us a brief history of war too. These sections – which fiercely satirize the ridiculous nature of war – are the most effective, and make the action-movie sequences seem a little superfluous.

Axis of Evil like to fly a close to the edge, and no topic is off limits. Obviously, the inherent shitness of war gives them plenty of appropriate material, from their summary of the Crusades in which Jesus ends up fighting directly with Mohammed – well, as directly as you can when he is represented by a pirate behind a paper screen in order to avoid ‘offending’ anyone – to their mock movie trailer for World War II: The Sequel. Religion, politics, and patriotism all come in for a pounding, sent up by cheap jokes, dodgy accents, terrible puns and some very silly puppets (my favourites are still the panda bear Goths, who decide to stop cutting themselves in order to cut the Romans instead, while listening to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and being totally emo).

This show is deliberately scruffy, but seeing it in the first week, it was probably even more shambolic than intended, and there were odd moments that fell flat or got lost in their frantic pacing. The afternoon slot also seems less suited to their style than previous years’ late-night shenanigans. But Axis of Evil have got what it takes to pull together a very funny show, and I suspect by the end of the festival ‘Oh! What a Shitty War’ will be spot on.