Edinburgh Fringe 2016
These Edinburgh regulars present another jaw-droppingly clever puppetry production for all ages.
Bunk Puppets are the Australian company responsible for quite a few shows at Edinburgh Fringe over the years, most notably ‘Swamp Juice’. I have seen most of them, and I remain as much a fan as I was at the start. They use cut-outs and various bits of junk as shadow puppets and it is quite charming. But to claim that is all it is would be a huge understatement. It’s not something I actually want to review – you would be much better off going to see it.
The house is only about 1/3 full at Underbelly Potterrow but the two-man team really do need the large performance area it provides. The space is covered with dim purple lighting. There are types of tables with piles of junk all over the place. Is one of them an ironing board? One bearded man enters. There’s no real discernable conversation. It’s a made-up language but we know what he means. He’s a likeable character who impresses us easily with a glove hidden in his pocket. He makes sure we’re with him before he goes further.
A second, taller, higher-status figure enters. He patronises the smaller man. They play off each other with noises and sound effects they make with the audience but our smaller guy wins. Once we are warmed up and settled, the puppetry begins.
There is a farm. Our main protagonist is a rooster. He collects eggs for the farmer and gets trampled by a friendly cow, who has been scared by a large flying bug. The rooster gives the eggs to the farmer who rewards him with ice cream and being ordered to look after a baby. The baby is, naturally, a handful. This is when the plot turns darker. Various disasters happen and there’s a lot of peril. The disasters aren’t entirely confined to the plotline. On this particular performance (unless this is part of the daily show), a few props are misbehaving. Both performers are so skilled they see these moments immediately and they use them whilst keeping in character. This is an extremely intricate business and it would be pretty impossible to have everything always go right. The music and lighting are well-plotted and chosen. It’s all a magical experience.
There’s some awfulness involving a koala bear but don’t worry – it has a happy ending. There is chaos on stage as things get worse for the rooster and the cow (especially when it swallows the bug) and the baby goes missing. Although the puppetry is still going on, projected on a large screen high above the performers, when the lights come back onto the stage it is apocalyptic. But there is still more to come. There is a sea storm and this is almost jaw-dropping, using an extremely clever and LARGE device to represent it. Ultimately, the sea is calmed and becomes a playful entity. Just when you think our heroes are lost, an unexpected rescue happens. The audience (made up of a total cross-section of society) cheer.
And this is part of the 3D section. Glasses are given out to the audience members. One of the cut-outs becomes a projection of one of the performers in a costume. Things fly out of a screen right into our faces. We gasp and yelp in delight.
Over the hour, Bunk Puppets use so much more than shadow projections. The story, as always, is bittersweet but charming and the execution of the production is awe-inspiring. They really are something you shouldn’t miss. This is entertainment for all ages.