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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Boris and Sergey in the Astonishing Freakatorium

Flabbergast Theatre

Genre: Puppetry

Venue: Underbelly Cowgate


Low Down

Boris and Sergey return for their 3rd outing in what is a Victorian freak show with audience participation. The central relationship between Boris and Sergey serves to continue to provide most of the laughs in a wonderful performance piece that keeps you entertained with grossness.


Boris and Sergey want to entertain and have collected together a series of sketches and characters designed to suggest the Victorian Gothic edge of yesteryear with which to achieve that. What we get are ghost like puppets entering, dishing out Tarot cards, the feral puppet that goes mental and the big puppet with the tiny head before a “master” from the macabre arrives to take control of events and leave us with the Freakatorium in plain sight.

I saw Boris and Sergey a couple of years ago. I was unconvinced and not sure about them. It was a late night show at the Pleasance Dome and sold out. Here we have a much smaller audience in the Underbelly and I was forced to think the unthinkable – had Boris and Sergey lost their mojo with the masses? If they have it is a terrible pity because this is much more assured, much better written and the framework in which this sits, for me made much more sense.

The puppetry is just fantastic and all 6 puppeteers deliver a real sense of performance from Boris and Sergey and the attendant bit parts. From the spooky masks through to Boris and Sergey themselves it is just great. Rather than just stand upon some fairly thin material this is very well crafted and deserves a much bigger audience.

What also helps is the set. With some great visual and aural effects we are transported into a Victorian Gothic circus of the macabre in which both Sergey and Boris serve as slightly less than competent ring masters. We buy right into that from the outset and it makes it increasingly enjoyable. The audience participation works well and the highlight is the séance for me. The improvisational skills that have been honed, no doubt through many a late night session and raucous crowd are fully utilised and this skill is one that ought to be more fully realised throughout future shows. We even got the cliché “It’s only a puppet” used in an original way!

This is obviously adult puppetry but there is, of course an innate sense of the childish nature of the characters of both Boris and Sergey. It makes for an eclectic mix of the visual and the spoken word underpinning the spooky horror show that we see. I was glad that I went back and certainly shall be placing these two characters high on my list of want to sees for future Fringes or wherever they may pop up.