Famous Puppet Deaths – Assembly Roxy

Directed by Peter Balkwill, Pityu Kenderes, Judd Palmer

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes. The title tells you everything you need to know.

A series of vignettes, complete with traditional ramped Punch and Judy structure, Famous Puppet Death Scenes grasps a tight hold of the jugular and refuses to relinquish its grasp until the closing moments. Nothing is sacred or indeed safe. Nudity, suicide, murder, butterflies, all the perverted stuff is here folks: you best believe it’s about to get gory.

But there’s no gradual incline either – The Old Trout’s Puppet Workshop throws audiences in at the deep end to weed out the weak. It’ll be clear within moments whether the production will enthral or repulse you. Perhaps even both. And though there is no true over-arching story, there’s a permanent fixture in an elderly puppet, the show’s somewhat host, who guides us through moral lessons of grief, sorrow, and desperation.

And while there are evident ripples of Terry Gilliam and Ronnie Burkett, to frequently claim these as a source of inspiration does a discredit to Old Trout’s ingenuity and creativity. Regardless of the quality of the sketch, some tighter than others, the induvial creative concepts and produce of the puppets are remarkable in design. Highlights include a set of Scandinavian children’s puppets, an inflating Operatic singer, the embodiment of the reaper, and a pair of utterly grotesque and loathsome little brothers who flush out the last of those not spooked by the show on some level.

Where the layers and dimensions of puppets take on a more grotesque or creative spin than at first envisaged. Famous Puppet Deaths Scenes is at its strengths at either end of the spectrum where the violence and absurdity are ramped or the subtlety in mortality comes to pass. For a multi-skit production, there are dips and tremendous highs – thankfully more of the latter.

A fascinating, if macabre, mixture of farcical violence and mortality. But more, it’s a sobering show. Famous Puppet Death Scenes is sophisticated, yes even with the nudity and violence, to crack open the world around us; a world in which the show doubles down on the ingenuity and creativity of the scene before, to remind us that in a world of colour, life, and vibrancy – only darkness awaits us at the end.

Sophisticated; even with the nudity.

Famous Puppet Deaths runs at Assembly Roxy until August 28th.

Tickets for which may be obtained here.

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