The Table: Blind Summit at Edinburgh

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

Puppetry with surrealism, flair, originality

Edinburgh –Pleasance Dome (King Dome)– 3-28 August—22:00 (1:00)

Blind Summit's incredible puppetry at Edinburgh 2011

Blind Summit Theatre present three very different puppetry shows in the same bill.  They do so with lashings of cheeky surrealism, flair and originality.  Despite a few flat moments, the show is funny and touching in equal measure.

The first puppet we meet, and indeed the only “puppet” is a table-top Japanese Bunrako puppet. A grumpy, but endearing and exceptionally ‘real’ old man.  He explains the mechanics of his existence; focus, fix-point and breathing.  The magic of the puppet is destroyed as his very able puppeteers start making deliberate mistakes.  It is fascinating to observe how the slightest error topples the show’s reality. Things start slowly, but through a combination of obvious freedom and improvisation, the charming comedy and the heart-warming bathos of the puppet’s situation — I’ve never been under the Table’ – leads to the gradual disappearance of the puppeteers and the wonderful suspension of disbelief that allows the puppet to become animate. That is, of course, until he breaks the fourth wall with one of his well timed killer lines — ‘my backstory?  I was a box!’

The puppet is joined by a silent woman.  The piece has an unnerving and well pitched Beckettian sense.  There is strict order, but the order is meaningless.  The piece ends in a slow motion physical theatre sequence which is spectacularly choreographed and exciting to watch.  The puppet is shown from all angles, the skill and control used by the ensemble is terrifyingly impressive. However, these shows of prowess are less engaging in many ways than the down-to-earth humanity of the puppet with a cardboard box head and a stuffed and rag-doll like body.

The second piece is an intriguing piece of light theatre.  Three screens with picture frames cut into them are lined up, and a foot-lighting bar is brought in.   The cast are all dressed entirely in black. They cannot be seen, but the objects they fly in front of the windows can.  This section is, sadly, the weakest part in the show.  The concept is not especially clever and, doesn’t quite work as you can often make out the puppeteers arms.  However, the sequence is short and has some endearing moments, such as a small white face, hands and feet operated by various cast become a single running man.

Finally we are treat to some ‘French Puppetry.’ All the cast become French, with cliched cigarettes and character attitudes, that are at once heighten the theatricality of the piece and are genuinely hilarious.  A series of hand drawn pictures are held up, seamlessly moving from one to another, to tell a flip book style narrative. This is a deliciously silly concept excellently executed.  It’s not always easy to read the smaller print, but this does not detract from the overall effect greatly.  As the brief case that held the pages snaps shut with an air of finality there is well deserved and rapturous applause.

Cast: Mark Down, Nick Barnes, Sarah Calver, Sean Garratt

Company: Devised and Directed—Blind Summit Theatre, Puppets made by—Blind Summit Theatre, Co-devisors—Ivan Thorley/Irena Stratieva, Lighting Consultation—Richard Howell, Administrator—Maeve O’Neill.

Reviewed- August 22nd  -Edinburgh

(c) Rebecca Gibson 2011

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