Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Fred is an endearing character who just wants to be a regular guy, like everyone else. He’s a wonderful actor, very sincere and we watch his life journey begin as he meets people and tries to find a job. Oh yes, one more thing, Fred is a puppet!
If you only see one show at the EdFringe this year, make sure you see Meet Fred at Summerhall. Fred is an endearing character who is only doing his best as he faces roadblocks that threaten his progress. He’s a wonderful actor, very sincere and we watch his life journey begin in front of our eyes. Oh yes, one more thing, Fred is a puppet! He is a blank canvas puppet with no facial features, sensitively brought to life by three outstanding puppeteers. The result is nothing short of astounding.
Fred is smart and learns quickly as he discovers that he has to go through several challenges common to us mortals, such as getting a job, meeting new people and…dating. The script is perfect; it’s witty, sarcastic, and compelling. Throughout the one-hour show we can all relate to the things Fred goes through and the little additional difficulties he encounters due to being a puppet, which should also be eradicated for all those with a disability. This point is brought out in a subtle way but is at the core of this show. Meet Fred started out two years ago at a workshop with Hijinx Cardiff Academy and their learning disabled actors, led by Ben Pettit-Wade, with Blind Summit puppetry company.
Fred just wants to be like everyone else, doing normal things. However, even for a puppet, everyday things we accept for granted may present a difficulty to others. Questions arise such as what is prejudice in puppet talk? How does the system serve everyone? Therefore, in Meet Fred we discover why it’s important to create effective solutions so that no one is marginalised in society.
Fred meets several characters along the way as he practices due diligence in trying the tasks he is required to do by The Director, a character in the play, vividly performed by Ben Pettit-Wade – who also happens to be the actual director of Meet Fred. Pettit-Wade’s double duty sets up fascinating conflict and challenging situations with Fred. This complicity with the audience brings about extremely funny situations, smashes the fourth wall, moves the story along and adds rhythm and build to the piece. The Director’s interactions with Fred are key to the show and are very entertaining. Assisting The Director is the Stage Manager played by Martin Vick. Martin comes in and out with props and sets, works hard and adds a stylish flourish each time. I really enjoyed these moments.
Fred’s voice is curtesy of the main bunraku puppeteer (Dan McGowan) who encompasses a range of personable vocal dynamics in his delivery. Fred’s voice ranges from logical, frustrated, to nervous and wondrous, at least. McGowan and the other two puppeteers (Morgan Thomas and Craig Quat) manipulate the head, arms and feet together, creating Fred’s movement and a body language that mimics that of humans: a casual stance, tilt of the head, slight bend, nuances of uncertainty – it’s so real that we completely buy into this wry, humorous story about a puppet with attitude. Meet Fred is a very sophisticated inspiring piece that is creative, imaginative, meaningful and fabulously entertaining. Don’t miss it!